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JOSEPH B. AMES
Aathor of "Cntlr of the Circle Bu," "Peta,
Cowpnncher," "The Mjiter; of
Ram Island," atc.i etc.
SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY
Bx BMALSj, WtYSABD t COHFANT
LIEUTENANT PETER ASHMUN AMES
NOVBMBBR 21ST, 1920
MismwUu fmtrU diitctl PtOrUt U$Ut
The Blue Diamond i
The Pirate Launch 24
The Ring of Shadows • • • • 55
The Eye of Vishnu 67
The Legend of the EmeSald . . 80
The Quest Begins 92
A Whisper in the Dark .... 105
The Mandarin of the Purple Fan . 1 16
The Cave of the Golden Dragons . 138
The Bronze Lever 161
The End of Fu-Chong .... 171
The Wreck of the Ocean Queen . 180
Skeleton Island 191
Sinister Relics 202
Trouble Brewing 211
XXI The PoisoNEa) Pearls 223
XXII The Half-Bbeed, Garcia .... 236
XXIII I»TO THE Jungle 244
XXIV Forebodings 253
XXV The Flying Terror 261
XXVI , The Vanishing of Sarak ... 271
XXVII The Buddha's Vengeance . . . 280
XXVIII By a Hairbreadth 292
XXIX At Last 302
THE EMERALD BUDDHA
THE BLUE DIAMOND
Kent SherwcMDd swung himself lightly from
the Pullman platform and with a quick gesture
summoned two of the uniformed porters hover-
ing about a pile of luggage that was being taken
from the train.
"One of you take these to the taxi stand," he
said, indicating two bags and a bullging steamer
roll. "The other can look after our trunks.
Here are the checks. We're in rather a
His orders were obeyed with uncommon dis-
patch. They usually were, in fact. One of the
most genial persons in the world, Sherwood
nevertheless had the air of one who knows ex-
actly what he wants and expects to get it. It
2 The Emerald Buddha
is a manner indicating generally either a large
knowledge of the world, or the backing of un-
limited wealth. In his case it was both. Hav-
ing seen the porters on their way, he turned
briskly to the young fellow who had followed
him more leisurely from the train.
"Well, we've made it all right, old man," he
said smiling. "The steamer doesn't sail for a
good hour yet. Tired ?"
Dick Warrender laughed. "Of course not I
After lolling about on trains for a week, I don't
want to do any more resting for ages."
He was about sixteen, with pleasant brown
eyes, set wide apart, and crisp brown hair. He
had the shoulders and general build of an ath-
lete, but just now his clothes hung loosely about
his spare frame and his face was rather pale as
if he had lately recovered from a serious illness.
As a matter of fact it had been nearly fatal,
but there were, he frequently reminded himself,
compensations. Except for that
yphoid his cousin, Sherwood, would
have never suggested this gorgeous
The Blue Diamond 3
trip to the Orient on which they were just em-
barking. All the way across the continent
Dick had been pinching himself every little
while to make sure he wasn't dreaming. Even
now he felt he couldn't really and truly credit
his good fortune until the steamer had actually
left the dock.
"Well, youVe still a lot of loafing ahead of
you," smiled Sherwood, taking his arm. "The
Pacific isn't like that little pond on the other
side. We're lucky if we make Yokohoma in-
side of two weeks."
Their progress through the crowded Van-
couver station was not a very rapid one. Ap-
parently another train had come in a minute or
two after their own, and they were presently
sucked into a mob of hurrying passengers
streaming toward the exits. Even Sherwood,
experienced traveller that he was, became
slightly annoyed at the constant pushing and
"They ought to manage these things better,"
he said with some petulance, "and not dump
4 The Emerald Buddha
two or three train-loads down here at once."
"Oh, I don't mind it/* protested Dick cheer-
fully. "After being on your back for weeks
and weeks, it's sort of nice to be shoved around
in a crowd. Look at that chap there, Kent —
the brown one, I mean. He's nearly as dark as
a negro, and yet he isn't, is he ?"
Sherwood's alert glance had already fallen
on the man in question, a slim, slight, shabbily
dressed individual with swarthy skin and dark,
piercing eyes who was swiftly threading the
crowd a dozen feet away.
No; he's a Hindu, I think," he answered.
Rather a high caste, too. He can't ever mean
to go back to India. You know it's considered
one of the greatest possible religious crimes for
them to discard their turbans and all that, and
put on foreign clothes. Well, here we are,
thank goodness ! Hop in, old man."
Their bags were already inside the taxi, and
after a short wait the two steamer trunks were
trundled up and piled in front. The dock
proved nearly as crowded as the station had
The Blue Diamond 5
been, but somehow this did not seem to trouble
Sherwood. In spite of his many trips abroad
the atmosphere of these gangway throngs still
had the power to stir him. He liked the sense
of bustle and confusion, the clattering trucks,
the scurrying, ladened porters, that first strong
whiff of salt sea air. Even the high-pitched
talk and laughter of the passengers seemed to
carry a pleasant undercurrent of anticipation
With the ease and swiftness of the seasoned
traveller, he piloted Dick up the gangplank,
siezed upon a passing steward, and almost be-
fore the boy had got his breath, they were in-
stalled in their stateroom, forward on the
"Now you spread out on the locker and take
life easy while I straighten things up a bit,"
Sherwood told the boy. "After a while we'll
go out and see if they've given us deck chairs
where I told them."
Dick did not feel in the least like resting, but
by this time he had learned the futility of ar-
6 The Emerald Buddha
guing with his cousin. So he dropped down on
the upholstered top of the wide locker and ex-
amined with approval the attractive appoint-
ments of the cabin.
"I do hope Tm not going to be seasick," he
said suddenly, his mind shifting abruptly from
the contemplation of white paint, crisp chintz
and alluring space-saving arrangements of
drawer and locker. "That would be the ex-
"You never have, have you ?"
Sherwood's tone was slightly abstracted.
He stood before the dressing table in his shirt
sleeves, the coat he had just taken off lying
across one corner of it in a heap. His back was
toward Dick, but his face was mirrored clearly
in the glass. It wore a distinctly puzzled ex-
pression and the eyes were fixed mtently on
something in his hands.
"Fve never had much chance," returned the
boy, "elxcept on the Fall River Line, or fishing
off Nantucket and that sort of thing."
Sherwood made no answer. He had moved
The Blue Diamond 7
%: slightly and through the mirror Dick saw that
gv he was stripping off the rubber bands that se-
p cured a small, rough-looking package wrapped
in newspaper. Swiftly the paper wrapping fell
i away, and out of an inner covering of tissue
r : Sherwood's deft fingers drew a small, stained
ir: leather bag.
For a moment the man stood oddly motion-
iv less, holding the leather bag between his fingers.
Then another slight movement of his body ob-
scured the mirrored vision. An instant later
i he gave a queer, low, startled cry which brought
t Dick swiftly to his feet.
"What is it, Kent?'' he asked anxiously.
"What's the matter?"
I "Shut the door," said Sherwood in a strange
Bewildered, the boy hastened to obey.
When he had closed the door leading into the
corridor and turned the key, he wheeled quickly
around and was startled at the sight of his
It was whiter than the ivory-tinted wall be-
8 The Emerald Buddha
hind him, with lines of tension about the mouth
and jaw. There was a glitter of excitement in
his wide, dark eyes which set the boy*s heart to
fluttering. For a moment he could not seem
to speak, and Dick noticed that the fingers of
one hand were clenched so tightly that the
knuckles made dots of white against the brown
skin. Then suddenly he thrust the hand for-
ward, the fingers unclosing abruptly.
"Look !" he exclaimed unsteadily.
Dick caught his breath and bent forward,
staring in dazed bewilderment at the amazing
object which lay there in the other's slightly
It was a monstrous jewel like nothing he had
ever even dreamed of. Shaped like a bisected
tgg and almost as large, superbly cut and pol-
ished, its brilliancy was flawless. The color
was a wonderful electric blue, that seemed to
pale and deepen as one viewed it from different
"Great snakes!" gasped Warrender. "Wa
— ^what is it ?"
The Blue Diamond g
'*A diamond," answered Sherwood curtly.
Dick's jaw sagged. "A diamond the size of
— that !" he stammered incredulously.
Kent nodded. "Exactly."
"But where on earth did you get it ? Where
did it come from ?"
Sherwood's face had resumed its normal
color and his usual cool, collected manner was
I don't know," he said quietly.
Tou don't know!" repeated Dick dazedly.
"I don't know an)rthing about it," Kent
stated, as the boy paused. "I never saw the
thing before in my life."
Had Warrender known his cousin less well
he would have suspected him of lying. His
knowledge of precious stones was no greater
than the average, but he felt instinctively that
this must be one of the famous diamonds of the
world — ^the sort of stone which is never seen
save behind iron bars or in the impregnable
treasuries of kings or sultans. Yet there it lay
10 The Emerald Buddha
familiarly in Kent's hand, glittering, glowing,
palpitating with a strange, fascinating, almost
'*But how — " began the boy, bewildered.
"I mean just that," broke in Sherwood. "I
found it just now in one of the side pockets of
my coat. It wasn't there when we left the
train. That's all I can tell you."
"You mean somebody put it there?"
Sherwood's eyes twinkled. "Somebody
must have," he returned. "But who, or how,
or why, or when, I haven't the most remote
Dick stared blankly at the gorgeous blue
jewel which seemed at once entirely concrete,
yet curiously unreal.
"But why?" he burst out suddenly in a baffled
tone. "It's the wildest thing I ever heard of.
Wasn't there anything in the wrapper that
would explain — some letter or something, I
By Jove!" exclaimed Sherwood. "You
The Blue Diamond ii
have got your head screwed on all right. I
never thought to look."
Placing the diamond carefully on the dress-
ing table, he caught up the layers of paper that
had enveloped it and plucked them apart. Al-
most at once his fingers encountered something
hard and he drew forth a heavy, flat piece of
dully gleaming gold little more than an inch
long and rather less in width. It was covered
with worn, ancient looking characters, and one
edge was rough and jagged as if it had been
broken forcibly across.
Sherwood gave the curious object a hurried,
puzzled glance and then turned his attention to
a scrap of paper, closely written over, which he
had discovered at almost the same moment. It
was done in pencil on a sheet torn apparently
from a small note book ; but in spite of evident
haste the extraordinary communication was
'Kent Sherwood," it ran —
Tou are intrusted with this jewel by one
who knows you. Preserve it with the utmost
secrecy and surrender it only to the possessor
of the other half of the gold coin. You are on
the way to Calcutta, and it may be that the di-
amond will be claimed in that city, though noth-
ing is certain. In the meantime confide in no
one. Should it become known that you possess
the diamond, incredible disaster would surely
The lines ended at the bottom of the page
and Kent turned quickly, expecting some added
explanation, or at least a signature. But the
other side of the sheet was blank. He looked
at Warrender with a baffled, irritated expres-
Thunder!" he exclaimed angrily. "Did
you ever know anything more aggravating?"
"I still don't understand," sighed Dick. "I
suppose it was slipped into your pocket either at
the station or on the dock ; there were crowds in
both places. But you didn't see anyone you
know, did you ?"
"Certainly not. Unfortunately there are a
good many people floating around who know
me by sight. Just because dad happens to be
somebody in the financial world, a lot of silly
papers stick my picture in their* Sunday supple-
ments and print all sort of rot about my plans.
I dare say that's how it was known we were
bound for Calcutta."
14 The Emerald Buddha
"It all seems awfully complicated," remarked
Warrender. "Why do you suppose this per-
son, whoever he was, was so anxious to get rid
of the diamond? Do you believe he stole it?"
"From whom?" demanded Sherwood.
"Don't you realize, old man, that a theft like
that would be instantly blazoned all over the
world? Besides, this stone is entirely un-
known to history. Precious stones are very
much of a hobby of mine, and I know what I'm
talking about. The only blue diamond of any
size is the Hope, and that's not half as large as
this. Of course some of the wealthy Indian
Rajahs are supposed to have wonderful collec-
tions of jewels locked up in their palaces that
nobody knows anything about, and some of the
temples — "
He paused, a sudden, troubled expression
flashing into his face.
"Well ?" prodded Dick curiously.
"I only hope it isn't one of those," said Sher-
wood gravely. "They're frightfully sacred,
you know, and the Brahmin priests are terrible
fanatics. If a diamond belonging to one of
their idols was stolen, they'd be like blood-
hounds on the trail. They'd literally never
give up ; and I don't suppose there's a nation on
earth that holds human life so lightly."
Dick shivered. "Gosh!" he exclaimed.
"Can't you get rid of it right away, Kent?
Couldn't you turn it over to — the police?"
Sherwood smiled oddly and motioned toward
one of the portholes. And Warrender, staring
through the thick glass at the slowly moving
harbor panorama, realized with a start of sur-
prise that the great ship was in motion.
"Too late," shrugged Kent. "Besides, that
wouldn't be very sporting, would it? For all
we know the fellow who wished it on me may be
the real owner. At least, until it's proved to be
stolen property, I don't see how I can give it up
except to someone producing the other half of
the coin. Funny looking coin, by the way, isn't
In its original state the gold piece must have
looked more like a slug than an ordinary coin.
1 6 The Emerald Buddha
It was very old, and the characters on it some-
what resembled Sanscrit. Beyond that Sher-
wood was unable to identify it.
"It might have come from almost anywhere
in the East," he remarked, wrapping it in a bit
of paper and dropping it into the leather bag
where he had already replaced the diamond.
"Well, I guess the purser's safe is the best place
for this. With it stowed away there we won't
have to worry for a while at least. And after
all, we must remember one thing. The fellow
has played us a dirty trick, and I'd wring his
neck with pleasure, but he's certainly managed
the business cleverly. As a matter of fact,
there isn't a chance in a thousand of anyone
knowing we've got the thing."
It did seem as if this were indeed the case.
Kent placed the bag in a pasteboard box,
wrapped it in stout paper and sealed it care-
fully with wax. When this was safely de-
posited with the purser they were both con-
scious of a feeling of relief which increased as
the days passed without a ripple to disturb the
placid serenity of the voyage.
The weather was uncommonly fine and they
spent much time in their deck chairs frankly
loafing. They met a number of pleasant people
and now and again joined in the games and
various amusements and entertainments of the
ship. But for the most part they did nothing
whatever, and the way Dick took on color and
weight more than justified his cousin's choice of
this longer route to the Indian city where he
was going on important business connected
with the Sherwood banking firm.
At Yokohama, where the steamer docked for
two days, the two went ashore for a little sight-
"Just to take the edge oflF your appetite," re-
marked Sherwood, as they landed. "Once this
business with the Calcutta branch is settled,
we'll have time to burn and can jog around ex-
actly as we like. But until then we'll have to
stick fairly close to schedules."
20 The Emerald Buddha
his glance followed a picturesque Japanese fish-
ing boat coming down with the tide. "All the
same/* he thought inconsistently, "I'll be
mighty glad when we shake him at Calcutta."
An hour later when the steamer had
anchored and was coaling from a number of
barges brought alongside, the two men joined
Warrender at the rail to watch the transference
of passengers from a tug which had put out to
them from the city.
There were a scant dozen of these, and quite
the most noticeable was a slim, slight figure clad
in rich Indian silks, his head bound with a tur-
ban of spotless white above which glittered an
aigrette of jewels. He was attended by two
more simply clad natives and just as he reached
the deck he glanced upward for an instant at
the group above. It was the most fleeting of
glances, but as Dick caught the flash of his
dark eyes, and noted the slim curve of throat
and chin and the tiny black moustache, there
suddenly came to him a vivid recollection of
that other Hindu, with his battered felt hat and
rough, incongruous. Western clothes, who had
passed them in the crowded Vancouver station
nearly three weeks ago.
"By Jove !" exclaimed Sherwood interestedly.
"Some class to him. Looks like a Rajput,
Sir Henry's left eye gave a characteristic
twitch and the monocle slid dangling to the end
of its cord. "I dare say," he drawled, turning
away indifferently. "Those chaps travel about
the world a lot nowadays. Can't we make up a
rubber in the smoking room, old fellow?"
But Sherwood was not in the humor for
bridge, and after a casual remark or so the bar-
onet left them. His back was scarcely turned
before Kent moved closer to the boy.
"Odd those Hindus coming aboard this par-
ticular boat," he murmured.
Dick glanced at him sidewise. "You don't
think they're connected with — "
"Probably not. As Asher says, they do
r — -,
^ Tt a rnjc ^iDfc 1» do
WarrcryJer od act i p:"JLre T]st then what
tint job nrght be. He had an idea it was an-
ncctfd vith the mysterioiis diamond, and later
m dieir stateroom Kent confirmed the guess.
At Hongkong they would leave the Empress
of Asia and transfer to the British India boat
for Calcutta, This would necessitate taking
the diamond from the safe and carrying it for a
more or less lengthy period of time in their lug-
gage or on their persons. Sherwood still felt
that no one even suspected the jewel to be in
their possession, but he meant to take no
chunccs. After considerable thought he de-
cided that Dick, being a bi\v, could carry the
utDne with urcutcr sufcty than himself, and
forthwith he imxwiW at odd times to hollow
out ^ krjjt^ cavity in th<^ heel of one of War-
rtt\der\>i >>^h\y\^ ami a v^nwHer one in the other,
- ^^l^\r iIk^ \\miC h<^ exj^Uined, ^^vhidi is al-
most as important to us as the diamond. Any
clever thief can pick your pocket, but it takes a
genius to get the shoe off your foot without
your knowing it/'
THE PIRAtE LAUNCH
Up to the very last twenty-four hours the
remainder of the voyage to Hongkong was un-
eventful. They saw nothing further of the
young Indian potentate, who proved to be a son
of the Nizam of Chotanagpore returning from
a tour of China and Japan. He kept his cabin
for the entire voyage, waited on by his two ser-
vants, both of whom Dick encountered more
than once in various parts of the ship.
The night before landing there had been a
farewell concert in the saloon and afterward
Sir Henry had been rather insistent that Kent
smoke a cigar with him on deck before turning
in. He seemed to be making a special effort to
be pleasant to Warrender, and for the first time
Dick had to admit that he really could be very
decent when he wanted to.
The Pirate Launch 25
It was thus uncommonly late when they
sought their cabin. To every outward appear-
ance everything in the stateroom seemed to be
in perfect order, but presently they both began
to be conscious of trifling, yet significant,
changes. One of Sherwood's coats, for in-
stance, was not just where he had left it, but a
little further down the rack. There was a
slight disarrangement ' of some linen in a
drawer. Worst of all, the precious shoes,
which Dick distinctly remembered placing in a
certain position, in the locker, had been moved.
"Well; it's come," said Sherwood quietly,
when he had made certain that the cabin had
been searched. "Did they find the holes?"
Dick looked up from the shoe he was examin-
ing. "I don't think so. The inner sole is
pasted down just as you left it."
"We'll have to take a chance," decided Kent,
after a momentary pause. "There's no time to
dope out any other hiding place. I suppose it
was one of those Hindus. I'd give a lot to
know how they got wise."
26 The Emerald Buddha
"That one we saw in Vancouver," hazarded
Dick. "You don't suppose he could have come
over on this boat V
"He might have— steerage. Or he could
easily have cabled to confederates in Japan.
These people all stick together. Well, there's
no use losing sleep over what can't be helped.
We'll simply have to keep our eyes peeled for
trouble in the future. Luckily this steamer
doesn't start back until the last of the week, so
I'll leave the diamond in the safe here until just
before we take the B. I. boat. We've a wait of
three days in Hongkong, and it would never do
to carry the thing around with us all that time."
It was a f ortimate precaution. They landed
about noon next day and went straight to a
hotel with their luggage. Sir Henry Asher
accompanied them, but there was no sign of the
young Indian Rajah amongst the disembarking
throng. After lunch they sallied forth to make
a partial tour of the city, which Dick found
rather disappointing. Everything seemed
The Pirate Launch 27
most modern and up to date, and save for the
picturesque Orientals crowding the streets and
shops, he might have been in New York or San
It was dusk when they returned to the hotel,
entering by a side door, Sherwood went
straight to the desk to see if any mail had come,
but Dick lingering behind, happened to glance
into a small, remote reception room and paused,
arrested by the glimpse of two men talking
together in a further corner.
The lights had not yet been turned on there
and for the most part the room lay in shadows.
But certainly the smaller man wore a white tur-
ban with a jewelled aigrette, and something
about the taller, dominating figure beside him
reminded the boy instantly of — Sir Henry
Then both men moved swiftly out of sight
and Warrender passed on, troubled and per-
plexed. He said nothing to Sherwood of his
discovery. He was too uncertain of what he
28 The Emerald Buddha
had seen, and he felt, moreover, that Kent
would merely laugh and refer to his marked
prejudice for the Englishman.
But when they returned next evening from a
trip up to "The Peak" and found unmistakable
evidence that their room had been thoroughly
overhauled in their absence, he was strongly
tempted to mention the incident. Still he kept
silent. After all no real harm had been done.
The diamond was safe aboard the Empress of
Asia, and ever since coming ashore he had been
careful to wear the shoes with the hollowed
Nevertheless he slept poorly that night.
And all next day he was oppressed by an un-
derlying feeling of anxiety and suspense. If
only they were safe aboard the B. I. boat and
the beastly diamond turned over to the purser !
He did not half enjoy the day's excursion, on
isher accompanied them, and by the
Y were back in the hotel he had worked
into a state of nervous tension difficult
The Pirate Launch 29
They were late getting back, due mainly to
Sir Henry's desire to take in all the points of
interest of Kawloon, the beautiful western
suburb. The steamer sailed early next morn-
ing and Sherwood's plan was to go aboard that
night. After a hurried dinner, they sent the
liiggage to the pier and took a rickshaw down to
the waterfront, where a small launch was en-
gaged to take them out to the Empress of Asia,
lying at anchor half a mile from shore.
Everjrthing went off so smoothly that even
Dick's nervous apprehension was soothed in-
sensibly. Sherwood received the sealed packet
from the purser, and retiring to a secluded spot,
they transferred the diamond to the hollow in
one of Warrender's shoes and the broken coin
to the other. The launch was waiting at the
side, and when they had settled themselves com-
fortably in the stern the Chinese boatman
started the engine and headed for the distant
row of lights that outlined the waterfront.
The wide harbor, faintly luminous under the
stars, was dotted with the lights of many
30 The Emerald Buddha
anchored ships. Lower down other moving
sparks told of launches and various small craft
threading their way about the populous water
thoroughfare, and the chugging of engines,
near and distant, added to that pleasant sense of
security which the presence of other human
beings always brings. Another twenty
minutes and they would be quite safe, Dick
thought. And then, happening to glance
astern, he was startled to see emerging from the
shadows in their wake, a long, slim, high-pow-
ered motor boat approaching at full speed.
She carried no lights, and for an instant the
boy stared fascinated at the shadowy shape so
swiftly overtaking them. Then he caught
Sherwood's arm and cried out sharply. Kent
"Look out !" he shouted, springing to his feet.
"Sheer off, you idiots, or you'll run us down!"
There was no answer, and Sherwood shouted
again, this time in sort of mongrel Chinese, in
which, as with several other Eastern languages,
he was surprisingly fluent. Still the warning
The Pirate Launch 31
was unheeded; on rushed the strange boat,
heading straight for them. Dick had a fleeting
glimpse of the cockpit crowded with sinister,
crouching figures ; saw Sherwood reach swiftly
for his automatic. An instant later the other
launch struck them slantingly with a crash and
an avalanche of half-naked coolies with swart,
ugly faces and glinting, evil eyes, swarmed
down upon them,
Warrender was flung into the cockpit by the
onru3h. He heard Kent's gun spit viciously,
the sound of shots echoing across the water.
He tried to gain his feet, but already he was
half smothered by the weight of reeking, naked
bodies pressing on him. From above came
grunts and groans and the thud of blows, domi-
nated by Kent's voice, hoarse and raging.
Suddenly a piercing shriek rose high above the
other bedlam, changing abruptly to a horrible,
sobbing sort of gurgle. The boy writhed fran-
tically, putting all his strength into a desperate
effort to free himself. He managed to loosen
one arm, but two men at least pinned his body
32 The Emerald Buddha
down and held his helpless. And then, all at
once, he felt a stealthy hand tugging at the laces
of his right shoe — ^the shoe in whose hollowed
heel reposed the blue diamond!
Gritting his teeth to choke back the cry of
apprehension that rose instinctively to his lips
Dick kicked out furiously and managed to jerk
his foot free for an instant. But swiftly it was
gripped again, by two hands this time, and he
felt the laces begin to give. Abruptly they
snapped, and at the realization that in another
moment the treasure would be gone, a sort of
frenzy seized the boy. With an amazing effort
he heaved up his body, dislodging one of the
coolies who held him down, and succeeded in
dragging his right foot under the other knee.
A second later he was conscious of a rattling
roar like the exhaust of a power boat running
at full speed. Someone shouted — sl strange
voice speaking English. From the coolies came
shrill cries of warning and like a miracle the
34 The Emerald Buddha
crushing weight of bodies lifted. Panting, his
head half submerged in a pool of water that was
rising in the cockpit, the boy struggled up in
time to see the pirate launch sheering rapidly
away from them, the last coolie aboard clinging
to the rail with one foot dragging in the water.
The blinding glare of a searchlight streaked
across the boat, its white light bringing into
strong relief the figure of Sherwood, dis-
hevelled, bloodstained, his automatic clutched
by the barrel, dangling from his limp fingers.
Shoulders drooping, chest heaving, he leaned
against the side, and with a horrible sinking of
his heart, Dick stumbled over to him.
''Kent !" he gasped. "Are you— hurt ?"
Sherwood shook his head. "Not much," he
panted. "Only— all— in."
"Boat ahoy!" rapped out a sharp, incisive
voice. "Who are you and what's up ?"
The searchlight flickered away and one of the
trim, efiicient, powerful launches of the Harbor
Police glided alongside.
"We've been attacked — ^by pirates," ex-
plained Sherwood in a clearer voice. "The
boat is stove in and sinking. Will you take us
A young officer dropped over the side and
glanced keenly around. "Rather a mess," he
commented, thrusting with one foot at the mo-
tionless body of a coolie lying face downward in
the rapidly rising water. "Better get aboard at
once. We'll hear your story afterward."
They lost no time in obeying his suggestion,
and were joined by the frightened owner of the
launch, who had taken refuge in the cabin. A
line was made fast to the disabled boat, and as
they proceeded slowly toward the shore Sher-
wood explained briefly what had happened,
omitting, however, any reference to the dia-
"A rum business," commented the officer
when he had finished. "I don't understand
their attacking a small boat like this. You say
they got nothing?"
Kent shot a momentary questioning glance
at Warrender, who slightly shook his head.
36 The Emerald Buddha
"Nothing whatever," he returned. "You
showed up just in time. By the way, I hope
this isn't going to delay us. We have passage
on the B, I. boat for Calcutta, sailing tomorrow
For a time it seemed as if there might be
annoying complications. But finally the diffi-
culty was solved by a signed statement from
Sherwood giving the details of the outrage, and
the production of unimpeachable references
both of a business and political sort. This set-
tled, and having paid the Chinaman for the
damage done his boat, they went aboard their
steamer, where Sherwood's first act was to seal
up the diamond and place it in the purser's safe.
Then and only then, they sought their cabin,
attended to a slight cut in Kent's shoulder, and
turned in at once to sleep the sleep of utter ex-
In the calm, placid, almost monotonous days
that followed, the thrilling harbor experience
seemed to Dick more and more like a dream.
The sense of security, the lazy lounging on
decki the commonplace chatter of the passen-
gers, all combined to thrust that strange adven-
ture into the seemingly remote past. Then
came Singapore and Penang, with their first
real glimpse of the languid, romantic, myste-
rious East to distract the boy's mind still
further. He even grew more tolerant toward
Sir Henry Asher, and though he still regarded
the Englishman with a vague suspicion, he
could not see how it was possible for the man to
commit any further deviltry even if he wished.
In this wise the voyage passed on to its pre-
destined end and one morning they came on
deck to find the steamer plowing through the
turbulent yellow waters of the Hooghly River.
Diamond Harbor was already well astern
and they were due to land at Calcutta before
For a space Sherwood and Sir Henry paced
the deck chatting; then the baronet strolled
away to say farewell to some of his many ac-
38 The Emerald Buddha
quaintances. A little later the other two went
below to pack, and they were still in the midst
of this operation when there was a tap on the
door and Asher entered.
"Just looked in to make sure of your hotel,
old chap," he drawled, standing with his back to
the door. "The Great Eastern, wasn't it? I
find I'll have to make a flying jump ashore the
minute we land, but I'll see you to-night at din-
ner. Ta-ta 'till then." He eyed Dick genially
through his monocle. "Looking forward to
your first taste of India, me lad ? You'll find it
deucedly interesting, I expect."
When he had departed, closing the door be-
hind him, Dick glanced at Sherwood and
sniffed. "Me lad !" he mimicked. "I wonder
if there was ever a regular fellow who didn't
hate being called that ?"
Kent laughed. "You've certainly got it in
for him," he chuckled. "Well, you won't have
to put up with him much longer. We're not
likely to be here more than ten days at the long-
They finished packing just as the steamer
warped into the dock. Sherwood had pur-
posely dawdled, for he wanted to wait until the
press of passengers were off the ship before se-
curing the diamond and placing it in the soft
leather money belt he wore next to his skin.
This time, he felt, there would be no possibility
of a slip-up. It was broad daylight, and he
had only to take a motor car from the dock di-
rectly to the bank, where the treasure could be
deposited with perfect security. From one of
the portholes they had a partial view of the
gang-plank, with its mass of hurrying passen-
gers. When the crowd seemed to be thinning
out, Kent decided to wait no longer.
"You may as well come with me," he said, as
he strolled over to the door. "I've got my gun
in my pocket, but — " He paused and gave the
knob a twist. "That's funny," he observed.
"Is it stuck ?" asked Dick.
Kent rattled the handle again and shook the
door with all his strength. Suddenly his hands
fell to his sides and he turned to Warrender.
40 The Emerald Buddha
"It's locked/' he said in a queer voice. "The
key's gone from this side."
For a long moment the two regarded one an-
other with swiftly growing apprehension.
Both remembered perfectly that when they last
entered Sherwood placed the key on the inside
of the door, thinking he might want to lock it
later while disposing of the diamond. One per-
son only had passed through since then —
"Asher!" exclaimed Dick suddenly. "He
stood there with his back against the door. He
might easily have — "
"Ring for the steward — quick !" interrupted
Warrender placed on finger on the button and
held it there, while Sherwood pounded the pan-
els with both fists. Such an uproar could not
long remain unheard. Presently the sound of
hurrying footsteps came from the corridor, fol-
lowed by a tap and the breathless voice of their
"We're locked in," explained Sherwood
curtly. "Open the door as quickly as you can."
"There's no key here, sir."
"Get the master key from the head steward,
then," ordered Kent sharply. "Don't lose a
The delay seemed interminable before the
footsteps sounded again, a key clicked in the
lock and the door swung open. Sherwood
darted through, followed by Dick, brushed past
the bewildered steward without a word, and
dashed for the stairway. In less than a minute
he was standing before the purser's desk.
"Your packet, Mr. Sherwood ?" repeated that
official in a puzzled tone. "But it was delivered
to you half an hour ago."
"Nonsense !" retorted Kent. "I haven't left
my cabin for over an hour."
The purser nodded. "I know. That's what
Sir Henry Asher said when he brought your
order for its delivery and a signed receipt. He
told me you were busy packing and had asked
him to fetch the package to you."
42 The Emerald Buddha
"Order! Receipt!" Sherwood glared at
the man. "Let me see them."
With a troubled expression the purser opened
a drawer, ftmibled there a moment and then
placed on the desk two oblong sheets of paper.
Bending forward, Kent stared in amazement at
the signatures so perfect that he would have
owned them anywhere as his, read the brief
documents and flung them down with a harsh
"I never wrote them !" he stated succintly*
The man turned pale. "But — ^but — " he
stammered. "I— I verified them from your
card. And Sir Henry Asher a well known
diplomat — "
"A diplomat — and a thief!" rasped Sher-
wood. His eyes flashed and he whirled around
to Warrender. "Get our hats and the small
black bag, Dick, and meet me at the gang-
plank," he snapped. "Hurry, now."
Dick flew up the stairs and in less than three
minutes had joined Sherwood at the gangplank.
The latter slapped on his hat and together they
left the ship and hurried along the dock.
"He was one of the first ashore," said Kent
bitterly. "That fool of a purser! But of
course there was no use being nasty with him ; it
wouldn't get us back the diamond."
"What are you going to do?" asked Dick
"Follow! You don't suppose Fm going to
let him put this over without a fight, do you ?"
From that moment Dick was treated to a
phase of Sherwood's character which had hith-
erto been not much in evidence. The careless,
easy-going man of the world gave place
abruptly to the keen, incisive, capable man of
action. Outside the dock he walked up to the
crowd of natives lounging in the sun, and in
sharp, fluent Hindustani described Asher and
asked if any one had seen him pass. Either his
manner or the sight of the sovereign in his hand
quickened the throng into instant, chattering
life. It presently appeared that one of them
had not only observed the Englishman hustle
into a motor, but overheard his direction' to the
Kent flicked the gold coin into the eager,
reaching hands and turning, thrust Dick into a
waiting motor. The boy had scarcely time to
take a long breath before they were speeding
over the long, level road paralleling the river
Whirling along through the scorching, humid
heat, Dick caught glimpses of rich green veg-
etation, of rows of mud huts varied now and
then by larger buildings, of muffled female fig-
ures standing in doorways, or groups of naked
children playing in the dirt. The docks lay to
the south of the city, and as they approached
the latter the habitations grew more crowded,
the way more congested. Presently they were
twisting through streets lined with warehouses,
bazaars, colorful small shops and filled with a
picturesque multitude of people. The driver, a
stalwart, efficient looking Sikh, threaded his
way unerringly and with the greatest skill
through what seemed an incredibly populous
labyrinth, and at last swung out upon the great
floating bridge over the Hooghly.
Sherwood seemed too preoccupied to talk,
and beyond informing Dick that Asher had
46 The Emerald Buddha
headed for the railroad terminus at Howrah on
the other side of the river, he said little. When
they finally drew up at the station, he told the
boy to wait and hurried in to the ticket office.
Within ten minutes he was back, frowning and
"He bought a ticket for Jaipaig^ri, over three
hundred miles up country,'' Kent explained
briefly. "The train left twenty minutes ago
and there isn't another until tomorrow morn-
For a moment or two he stood there thinking.
Then his glance sought the clean-cut, impassive
face of the Sikh driver and rested there apprais-
"Your name ?" he asked suddenly in Hindu-
"Bhop Lai, sahib."
"You own this car?"
"Would you be willing to take us up country,
to Jaipaiguri perhaps ? We must start at once
and we should have to speed. But I will pay
you better than you have ever been paid be-
The Sikh turned his head and for a long mo-
ment his level brown eyes gazed searchingly
into Sherwood's. Then he inclined his tur-
baned head gravely.
"As the Hazoor wishes/' he said quietly.
"Good !" exclaimed Sherwood, his face light-
ing with satisfaction. "You'll need gas, I sup-
pose, and oil. While you're getting it, I'll have
them put up a basket of provisions so we won't
be delayed by stopping. Come back here for us
as quickly as you can."
The Sikh nodded and swung his car away
from the building while Sherwood and War-
render hastened inside. Kent changed some
English notes for gold and silver coin at the
ticket office, procured a basket of provisions,
and they returned to the place of meeting just
as Bhop Lai drew the car up at the side of the
"We're in luck with this man," Sherwood ob-
served in a low tone, as they settled back in
48 The Emerald Buddha
the tonneau. "The Sikhs are the finest type of
Indians going. They don't know what fear is,
and they're thoroughly trustworthy, which is
more than you can say for some of the others/'
He paused a moment and glanced quizzically at
Dick. "You haven't once said T told you so,' "
Warrender looked blank; then he laughed.
"Oh, about Asher, you mean ? No use rubbing
it in, is there? Besides, I've got an awfully
guilty feeling for not saying anything about
something I thought I saw at Hongkong."
Briefly he told of the darkened reception
room at the hotel and the two figures he had
glimpsed therein. Sherwood listened interest-
"Hum !" he commented. "I don't believe it
would have made any difference. You weren't
really certain, and I should probably have
laughed. You see, I was so dead sure the man
was all right. I still don't see how he put it
over. Sir Henry Asher is really a well known
British diplomat. I remembered the name and
the purser confirmed me. He'd never other-
wise have given up the diamond/'
"You mean this fellow impersonated him ?"
"He must have — ^unless the real Sir Henry
has gone mad. Fancy the colossal nerve and
cleverness necessary to palm yourself off for a
man who must have a host of friends in the
East, any one of whom might turn up at the
most awkward moment."
By this time the car had left Howrah and
was speeding northward along a rutty country
road. Like a winding ribbon it lay across the
flat plain, flanked by endless stretches of richly
cultivated fields. Mud villages dotted its mar-
gins, or isolated huts, each one of which seemed
to house a veritable horde of people. At rare
intervals a marble mosque dome hung against
the distant horizon, its delicate outlines waver-
ing in the brilliant sunshine seeming fairylike
and unreal. Constantly they passed people
afoot, driving in tongas, or walking beside
primitive, slow-moving wooden carts drawn by
patient, stunted bullocks.
50 The Emerald Btuldha
Now and again they talked over the situation
and tried to plan, but as Sherwood remarked, it
was rather fruitless to plan when they had
nothing whatever to go on.
"We've simply got to hustle all we can and
try to catch him up at Jaipaiguri," he said. "If
we manage to do that Fm not worrying about
At five o'clock the skies clouded over and it
began to pour. Two hours later the road was
impassable and they were forced to stop for the
night at a small village where the accommoda-
tions were primitive beyond imagination.
It cleared toward morning and all day long
they forged ahead through the hot, steaming
atmosphere which wilted ever)rthing, including
their spirits. Before noon they had crossed
the Ganges, and though they were delayed by a
detour for gas, they made such progress that
Kent was in high spirits.
He had persuaded Bhop Lai to let him take
turns driving while the Sikh slept. Even al-
lowing for the slow speed of Indian trains they
would be left far behind if they halted again for
any length of time.
The heavy downpour came on again late that
afternoon, but they pushed ahead in spite of
mud and roads which seemed like small rivers.
They ate from the basket and did not pause until
nearly eight when Kent took the wheel. A lit-
tle later the rain ceased. At midnight, or
thereabouts, the engine gave a wheeze and a
sputter and stopped dead.
Bhop Lai awoke instantly and was out in the
road before the wheels had ceased to turn. To-
gether he and Sherwood made a hasty inspec-
tion and found to their dismay that they were
up against ignition trouble, probably a short
circuit caused by the deluge through which they
had just passed.
"Thunder !" exclaimed Kent irritably.
"That'll take an hour at least to locate."
"More likely two, sahib," put in the Sikh,
who understood English fairly, though he could
52 The Emerald Buddha
not speak it well. "Perhaps the sahib had bet-
ter sleep. One can correct the trouble as
ea'sily as two."
Sherwood did not answer immediately. He
was surveying their surroundings, which
seemed to him as desolate as any he had ever
seen. Overhead the moon was struggling
through wisps and scuds of ragged clouds and
its wan light wrought ghostly tricks with the
unfamiliar landscape. One side of the road
was lined with tangled wild growth ; along the
other ran a ruinous old wall of stone, above
which the tops of trees crowded in thick luxuri-
ance. Fifty feet or so beyond the spot where
the car had stopped the wall was broken by an
open gateway flanked by decayed and tottering
stone pillars. Between them, where once a
road had been, weeds grew waist high.
"It is the palace of the dead Rajah of Hu-
dam," explained Bhop Lai. "No one has dwelt
there for many years. Half a mile beyond is
the village with a poor inn. I have passed this
way twice before, sahib."
"There's no use trying to sleep," declared
Sherwood. "Suppose we take a walk up the
road, Dick, and stretch our legs. If you're as
stiff as I am, it'll be a relief."
The boy acquiesced readily and together
they strolled along the desolate track, careless
of the mud which squelched up at every step.
As Kent remarked, they were already so be-
draggled that a little more dirt was of no con-
Presently the moon broke clear of the tat-
tered clouds and sailed serenely in the heavens,
shedding a soft, silvery radiance over the silent
landscape. By its added brilliancy they could
make out a low hut or two on the left side of
the road ahead, and on the other side a strag-
gling, one-storied building, rather more pre-
tentious with its setting of luxuriant, semi-
tropic shrubs and creepers."
"The inn, I expect," commented Sherwood.
"Every one's asleep, of course."
But his guess proved wrong. The small, ir-
regular windows along the front were dark and
54 The Emerald Buddha
lifeless, but as they reached the further corner
of the building Kent caught sight of a moving
figure close to the side wall, and drew Warren-
der swiftly back into the shadow.
THE RING OF SHADOWS
Just why he did so Sherwood could not have
explained, save that the presence of any one
abroad at such an hour seemed unnatural.
Also there was a touch of stealthiness in the un-
known's movements which made him presently
peer curiously around the corner to see what
was going on.
Brightly illumined by the moon, two Hindus
now were standing close beside a window mid-
way down the length of the building. One of
them held upright a long pole like a length of
thick bamboo, and their heads were bent a little
as if peering through the opening. Presently
Kent saw them draw back a trifle and the one
with the pole lowered it and thrust it forward
with exceeding delicacy and caution.
Bit by bit the pole slid through the window
until only the butt of it remained in the native's
56 The Emerald Buddha
hand. There came a pause, fraught somehow
to Kent's keyed-up senses, with a curious, inex-
plicable suspense. It was broken by a faint,
hissing intake from one of the Hindus, and an
instant later from the interior of the room
issued a strange, low sound, half gasp, half
strangled cry. Like a flash the pole was with-
drawn and the two natives were crouching be-
neath the window-sill when Sherwood burst im-
pulsively upon them.
His automatic was in one hand and Dick fol-
lowed close behind him. The Hindus leaped up
startled and stood hesitating for an instant as
if debating whether or not to meet the attack.
Finally they dropped the pole and fled swiftly
into the thick growth back of the inn.
Sherwood made no attempt to follow them.
It would be useless, he knew, and already he
was regretting the impulse which had made him
interfere. At his feet lay the bamboo rod,
twelve or fourteen feet long and unusually
thick of girth. Unable to understand its pur-
pose, he bent forward to examine the hollow
The Ring of Shadows 57
end when a sudden vicious hiss made him leap
An instant later a head, flat and venomous,
appeared in the hollow. There was another
hiss, and to their horror a snake writhed out of
the opening and coiled before them, eyes gleam-
ing evilly, and monstrous hooded head swaying
slightly from side to side.
"A cobra !" gasped Sherwood, dragging Dick
back. "Great heavens !"
Spellbound, they watched the creature glide
swiftly away and vanish in some tall grass.
Even after it had disappeared they stood mo-
tionless, staring at one another with startled,
"What — ^were they — doing with it?" mut-
tered Warrender presently, in a queer, hoarse
Sherwood did not answer. His eyes had
shifted to the open window as if striving to
penetrate to what the shadows hid. At length
he moved toward it, but slowly, almost reluc-
tantly, and peered into the room beyond.
58 The Emerald Buddha
It was still in there — deathly still. A patch
of silvery moonlight lay on the dirt floor, bring-
ing into faint relief the squalid little bare apart-
ment. A low pallet occupied the middle space
and on it, under some crumpled rugs, lay the
figure of a man.
For a long moment Kent stood motionless
staring at that still figure, a cold chill stealing
over him. Then, without a word to Dick, he
thrust his automatic into the boy's hand and
stepping over the low sill, he approached the
Somehow he did not need that closer look to
realize the truth. Something had already told
him that what lay there was all that remained
of the man they had known as Sir Henry
Asher. Gone was the smooth, silky moustache,
the almost aggressive air of well-tubbed cleanli-
ness. The immaculate garments had been re-
placed by shapeless nondescripts, torn, ragged
— filthy. The face — Kent drew a sudden
sickened breath and averted his eyes. He
could not bear to look on that distorted horror.
The Ring of Shadows 59
His first impulse was to fly instantly from the
place. He had even taken a step or two toward
the window when he remembered. The dia-
mond ! Asher had been murdered for it — mur-
dered cruelly and with the most diabolical inge-
nuity ; but had there been time for his slayers to
secure the treasure ?
Sherwood thought not. And though it
meant a tremendous, concentrated effort of
will, he was presently bending again above the
pallet, passing his shrinking hands swiftly and
searchingly over the body.
Suddenly he found what he was seeking. A
little leather sack hung under the man's left
arm, held there by a thong about his neck.
Kent opened it with shaking fingers and drew
forth the stone — a glowing, gorgeous mass of
clear blue fire that sparkled radiantly in the
moonlight. Quickly he thrust it back,
crammed the bag into a side pocket, and
scrambled through the window.
"It was Asher," he said hoarsely. "They
killed him with that cobra hidden in the bam-
6o The Emerald Buddha
boo. It was hideous — ^but they didn't get the
diamond." He caught Warrender by an arm
and hurried him toward the road. "We must
get back to the car," he muttered. "They'll not
stop at this; they may be watching us even
Around the corner of the inn they fled and
straight down the silent, deserted road. In
snatches Kent told what he had found and
"He was disguised ... he must have left
the train at a way station not far from here.
. . . Perhaps he changed his plans, or Jaip-
aiguri may have been just a blind. ... At all
events, he's paid. Ah ! the car. If Bhop Lai's
only finished, we can get out of this."
But as they hurried forward the utter silence ^
of the place struck them with a chill forebod-
ing. It was still — ^breathless. Reaching the
car they found the hood open, a tool or two
lying on the dashboard, but of the Sikh there
was no sign. No sign, that is, at first. Pres-
ently they found too many — crushed grass,
The Ring of Shadows 6i
broken bushes, a trampled circle in the mud, the
mark of many alien feet.
"Here, too !" muttered Sherwood.
He straightened and glanced desperately
around like a hunted animal that sees the toils
inexorably closing. The shifting of the moon
had brought the car into sharp relief. The
road, too, was brighter, and gliding toward
them from the village he glimpsed a number of
swiftly moving shadows. Catching Warren-
der by an arm, he drew him toward the ruined
"There's just a chance," he whispered. "If
we can hide. . . ."
Another moment and they had plunged be-
tween the tottering pillars into a gloomy tangle
of shrubs and trees and creepers. Apparently
the place had once been an elaborate garden, for
here and there were glimpses of balustrades,
arches, columns of white marble. But in the
absence of tending hands, the luxuriant growth
had run riot and only the weed-grown road was
.62 The Emerald Buddha
As they sped forward along this unknown
track, the diamond flopped against Kent's side
and a sudden, furious hatred for the jewel came
over him. For an instant he was strongly
tempted to fling away the cause of all their
troubles. But it was only an impulse. The
diamond was not his own, and a certain dogged
streak in his make-up impelled him to hold the
trust — ^perplexing and dubious though it was —
against almost any pressure.
But there came a moment when that pressure
strained his will almost to the breaking point.
A hundred yards beyond the gate the road
curved round a circular old fountain rimmed
with moss-grown marble and filled to the brim
by the constant rains. Beyond it, through a
fringe of trees, a wide flight of steps led up to
the front of an imposing building, looming
white and glistening in the moonlight.
Instinctively they halted and as they did so
Kent saw a shadow flit across the terrace of the
building and disappear. Another followed,
and another still. Heart sinking, he glanced
The Ring of Shadows 63
swiftly back along the darkling road to see
other shadows creeping forward stealthily.
And of a sudden to his tense nerves the tangled
wilderness that hemmed them in seemed full of
"TheyVe got us," he muttered, in a low,
Then like a flash of light a desperate thought
came to him. Stung by the need of haste, he
bent swiftly and snatched up a piece or two of
broken marble. These he crammed into the
bag which held the diamond^ jerked tight the
drawstring, and to Dick's amazement, deliber-
ately tossed the sack into the middle of the
fountain. Scarcely waiting to see it sink, he
hastened on along the road, the bewildered boy
at his side.
To Warrender it seemed as if his cousin had
suddenly gone mad. Reaching the edge of the
clearing before the ruined palace, he turned
sharp to the right and sped along a stone-
flagged walk. To be sure he kept close in the
shadow of the spreading trees, but Dick felt
64 The Emerald Buddha
somehow that this was merely a pretence of
concealment. The suspicion became a cer-
tainty when Sherwood, mounting a slight slope,
turned again abruptly and ran straight for the
Half way up he stopped short, hesitated an
instant, and finally with a quick sweep of one
arm, dragged Dick down behind a great marble
urn that stood there.
"Look out !" he warned sharply.
With a sudden flash of steel, a long knife
arched glittering through the moonlight, struck
the urn with a thud and clattered harmlessly to
the pavement. Kent sprang to his feet and
faced the terrace.
"Stop!" he cried in Hindustani. "We sur-
There was ^ brief pause. Then : "Place
your weapons on the step above you," said a
Sherwood obeyed promptly and drew back.
And as he did so, like a conjuring trick, that
silent, ruined place awoke to life. On every
The Ring of Shadows 65
side dark, turbaned figures rose up silently.
They came from behind bushes, out of the shad-
ows of ruined arch or gaping doorway; it al-
most seemed as if the very earth yielded its toll
to make up that human ring which closed in
swiftly upon the two standing together in the
moonlight. A dozen feet away the forward
movement halted and a tall, stately individual
in flowing robes came on alone, his right hand
outstretched, palm upward.
"The diamond," he requested briefly.
Sherwood drew a long breath. "I haven't
it," he returned with equal brevity.
For an instant the silence was intense. Then
a sudden, concerted snarl rose from the circle
of Hindus. The leader quelled it with a ges-
"I think you lie," he said simply. "Let them
At the order a dozen natives stepped forward
and in a surprisingly brief space Sherwood and
Warrender, naked as they were born, shivered
on the moonlit terrace while those supple, slim
66 The Emerald Buddha
brown fingers searched every fold and crevice
of their garments. Nothing was found save
the broken gold piece and the empty hollow in
Dick's other shoe.
"It was there !" accused the tall man, point-
ing to the latter. "Where is it now?"
Mentally Kent braced himself. "Where you
will never find it," he answered, striving to keep
his voice steady.
What he expected he scarcely knew; cer-
tainly it was not what actually did follow. For
a long moment the leader stood motionless,
searching his face with dark, keen, penetrating
eyes. Then he made a strange gesture with his
hands and turned away.
"We shall see," he said curtly. "Dress !"
THE EYE OF VISHNU
Ten minutes later, clothed and surrounded
by a silent guard of natives, they were being led
through the ruined palace gardens. On the
further side these opened into cultivated fields,
beyond which lay another road running nearly
at right angles to the one where they had left
the car. Here they were forced to enter a
primitive, open wagon drawn by two horses, a
portion of the escort mounted, and the caval-
cade set off at a rapid pace.
It was not at all a pleasant journey. The
way was rough and jolting, and very soon they
struck into the hills and mounted steadily for
hours. And all the while their keen mental
worry was far worse than any possible physical
discomfort could have been. What lay before
them they had not even the most remote idea.
68 The Emerald Buddha
Sherwood, it is true, believed that as long as
they kept the secret of the diamond's where-
abouts their lives at least were safe. But he
also knew that the Hindus, amongst other
ancient Eastern people, are masters at the art
of opening stubborn lips, and the prospect was
not agreeable to contemplate. By the time day
broke the nerves of both were strained almost
to the breaking point.
The cavalcade was still toiling through the
hills and the country round about was wild and
desolate. But just as the first rays of the sun
shot above the ragged horizon, the wagon
turned a rocky shoulder and an amazing edifice
lay before them.
Almost the entire surface of a wide plateau
was covered by an immense square building
surrounded by wide terraces and elaborate or-
namental work of stone and marble. From
each corner of the square, flat roof there rose
graceful, four-sided towers like slender pyra-
mids, each topped by a massive carved orna-
ment shaped something like a partly opened
The Eye of Vishnu 69
lotus flower. Imposing as these were, they
seemed dwarfed and rendered insignificant by
the enormous central tower which occupied the
entire middle portion of the building and soared
up hundreds of feet into the still, clear air.
As they drew nearer they saw that every
square foot of this stupendous building was
covered with a lacy network of most amazing
carving. Thousands of figures of strange gods
and warriors, of men, beasts and birds mingled
with fanciful designs and curious religious sym-
bols, crowded its many courses, and the effect
was beyond anything that even Sherwood, in
all his travels, had ever seen.
At the foot of the first terrace they left the
wagon and were escorted up a great flight of
wide, shallow steps to an entrance flanked by
huge, rearing horses, richly caparisoned and
ridden by men in armor. Beyond this lay an
enormous hall, wide, lofty, spacious, lined with
hundreds of massive stone monoliths, carved
There were more corridors and halls, more
yo The Emerald Buddha
stairs, with everywhere that same bewildering
lavishness of ornament executed in enduring
stone. How many centuries of patient labor
they represented no human being could esti-
mate. At length, speechless with wonder, they
were ushered into a small, square room, simply
furnished in the Eastern style, which held but a
He was an old, old man, dressed in flowing
robes that suggested some religious order. He
did not move as they entered, but remained
seated in an oddly shaped chair, his thin, veined
hands resting motionless on the arms, while
their conductor approached and engaged him
for some moments in low-voiced, inaudible con-
But presently at a signal Kent approached,
and as he drew near he was conscious of a curi-
ous emotional disturbance. Hitherto he had
been entirely on the defensive. The blue dia-
mond had been intrusted to his keeping and he
regarded any one who strove to take it from
him forcibly as an enemy to be opposed by any
The Eye of Vishnu 71
possible means. Asher he considered one of
these; so was the leader of the band who had
brought them to this strange place. So, also,
he had felt, up to a moment ago, must be this
aged person with the lined and wrinkled face,
whom intuitively he sensed to be the motive
power behind them all.
But now, looking into those limpid eyes,
bright with life and purpose, yet veiled with a
sort of wistful pathos, vague doubts began to
rise disquieting within him.
"Why will you not grant Holy Vishnu the
blessed gift of sight, Stranger ?" the old man
Kent stared. "I — ^I don't understand," he
"I speak of the sacred jewel you have hidden
from us," said the old man, in a low, clear, sin-
gularly penetrating voice. "To you it is a blue
diamond merely — a stone of great price and
beauty, doubtless, but nothing more. To us it
is — something holy. It is the Eye of Vishnu !
For centuries it rested in the keeping of our
72 The Emerald Buddha
God, bringing peace, prosperity arid plenty on
his worshippers. And then a score of years
ago it vanished — ^stolen by a treacherous ser-
vant on whom may curses eternal rest. Our
priests and others sought for it fruitlessly until
a little time ago. The young Nizam of Cho-
tangpore himself spent many months in its pur-
suit, disguised as a low-caste Hindu. And
now, as success was crowning all their efforts,
Fate intervenes again. You are that fate,
White Stranger from across the waters. Is
there nothing in your heart that beats respon-
sive to our tribulations ? Can you think upon
our desolated shrine and still be hard ?"
Sherwood flushed crimson. "But I'm not —
hard!" he protested impulsively. "The — ^the
diamond isn't mine to give up. It was in-
trusted to me by — "
He broke off with a queer gasp and stared
wide-eyed at a small ebony table standing beside
the throned chair. A thin packet of papers lay
there ; beside it was the broken coin which had
been taken from Dick's shoe. But these things
The Eye of Vishnu 73
meant nothing to him. It was another object
which riveted his amazed attention — ^a bit of
dully gleaming gold, jagged along one side, so
like the other piece that it was difficult to tell
one from the other.
"That — ^that gold piece!" cried Kent, point-
ing eagerly. "Where did it come from?"
The old man's dark, youthful eyes slanted
obliquely to the stand, then travelled swiftly
baok to Sherwood's face.
"It belonged to a certain white man who once
possessed the Eye," he explained quietly. "He
met his end in a far country — suddenly. The
Eye was gone, but whatever eke he had was
brought to me. Why do you ask ?"
"Because — Why, that's the signT Kent's
voice quivered with excitement, "Don't you
see? I was to surrender the diamond only to
one who brought me the other half of that gold
coin. And there it is !"
Hastily the old man turned in his chair,
caught up the two halves of the broken coin and
fitted them together with trembling fingers.
74 'I^f^ Emerald Buddha
Then his thin, bent body straightened and over
the wrinkled face there spread an amazing
"Vishnu be praised!" he murmured. "And
so — The Eye ? You will give it up ?"
"Only too gladly. I think—" And Kent's
lips curved in a pleasant, likable, relieved smile
— "I think I should have done so in any case.
It lies in a weighted leather sack beneath the
waters of a round marble fountain in the gar-
dens of the Rajah of Hudam."
"You hear, Rajh Singh?" cried the old man
tremulously. "Make haste! Go swiftly
thither while the gods yet smile."
With a low obeisance, the tall, robed Hindu
hastened from the room, taking the guards with
him. For a space there was silence as the aged
Brahmin priest sat motionless, a strange, ex-
halted expression in his face.
"For what you have done there can be no true
payment," he murmured presently. "Is there
nothing you would ask ?"
"Bhop Lai — our Sikh driver?" questioned
The Eye of Vishnu 75
Sherwood swiftly, voicing an anxiety they both
shared keenly. "Is he — "
"He is safe and here ; he will be freed at once.
But that is a small thing. Is there no other
way by which I may show our gratitude?
Three hundred thousand rupees, of course, are
yours. That is the reward we offered.
"You offered that reward?" interrupted
Sherwood eagerly. "I wonder if that could
have been what tempted Asher ?"
"Ash-er?" repeated the Brahmin with a
quaint accent. "Ah, yes ! My people were a
trifte hasty there, I fear. But he was a wicked
man who stole another's name and place the
better to carry out his evil plans. To him the
Eye was merely a means for gaining wealth to
which he had no right, and Vishnu willed his
"But those others?" questioned Sherwood
curiously. "The Hindus on the ship — the
young Nizairi of Chotangpore? What was
their part ?"
76 The Emerald Buddha
The Brahmin's eyes glowed. "That of true
believers only," he returned. "They had
pledged their lives to the recovery of Vishnu's
Eye. Some of them have searched for it many
years. The young Nizam suspected this false
Ash-er, and at Hongkong made pretense of
helping him in order that he might learn his
plans. There was still another — ^Wes-son, who
died in a far country — " He hesitated; then
lifting the packet of papers from the stand be-
side him, handed them to Sherwood. "You
may read ; they are in English. They came to
me with this precious bit of gold which will
now be forever sacred."
Sherwood unfolded them curiously and
glanced through a page or two. Suddenly he
gave an exclamation of surprise.
"Weston!" he cried "George Weston!
Why, we went through Yale together." He
stared at Dick in a puzzled fashion. "But I
never saw him in Vancouver."
"There was an awful crowd," Warrender re-
minded him, "and I suppose he was pretty care-
The Eye of Vishnu yy
ful that you shouldn't see him. How do you
suppose he ever got mixed up in this business ?"
"YouVe got me," shrugged Sherwood. "He
always was a queer duck, but — "
Thoughtfully he refolded the papers and
handed them back to the old man.
"I wish rd known — ^before," he said slowly.
"I might have saved you a great deal of worry.
Of course I can't take the reward. I haven't
earned it; and besides, it has been enough to
restore to its proper place this precious jewel
which has been lost for ages."
The very human eyes of the aged Brahmin
regarded Sherwood thoughtfully.
"And yet you are fond of jewels," he stated
Kent smiled. "I don't know how you
guessed it, but it's true," he agreed. "And the
Eye of Vishnu is the most gloriously fascinat-
ing jewel I have ever seen. But it belongs
here ; it is a part of your shrine and has been so
for untold ages. I express myself poorly, I'm
afraid, but perhaps you will understand me
yS The Emerald Buddha
when I say that this is not the sort of gem I
The Brahmin nodded. "I do understand,"
he answered readily. "You are one of the very
few whose sense of right and justice cannot be
He paused and for a space sat silent staring
straight before him, an expression in his eyes
which almost startled Sherwood. They were
slightly narrowed, veiled, intent, with con-
tracted pupils which gave Kent the feeling that
he was looking back through ages, if not aeons,
of time, searching for something half-forgot-
ten. At length he spoke, slowly, absently as
one scarcely conscious of voicing thoughts
"There is another jewel even more wonder-
ful than the Eye of Vishnu," he murmured.
"For centuries it has — "
His voice ceased abruptly and across his
wrinkled face came a little ripple of returning
"We will speak of that again," he said
The Eye of Vishnu 79
briefly. "Meanwhile you are weary and in
need of food." He touched a bronze bell be-
side him and immediately the door opened and
an attendant stood on the threshold. "Conduct
the sahibs to a sleeping chamber," he ordered,
"bring them food, and treat them as you would
myself. Fear not to ask for anything you de-
sire, my friends. You are our honored guests
on whom Vishnu smiles."-
THE LEGEND OF THE EMERALD
"What on earth do you suppose he meant by
that ?" asked Dick Warrender, when Sherwood,
over their meal, gave him an outline of all that
had passed between the Brahmin and himself.
"I can't make out," Kent answered. "A
jewel more wonderful than that gorgeous blue
diamond would be going some, all right. But
then, almost anything is possible in the East.
There's one thing certain: the old fellow will
tell us in his own way and at his own time or not
at all. He's an awfully decent old chap, but
you can't hurry these people." He yawned
cavernously. "Let's turn in. I'm dead to the
During the three days that followed it be-
came evident that Sherwood had sized up the
situation with complete accuracy. He and
Warrender spent an hour or two each day with
The Legend of the Emerald 8i
the old Brahmin, but the subject of precious
stones was not again touched on, and Kent was
too wise to make any attempt to force matters.
They had been urged to remain as guests of
the monastery until after the solemn Feast of
Restoration, toward which they had contributed
so vitally, and Sherwood, believing that when
this was over the high priest's tongue might
perhaps be loosened, accepted willingly. Bhop
Lai was despatched with several companions to
secure the abandoned motor car and bring it to
a little village at the foot of the mountains, and
after that there was nothing to do but patiently
Starting at daybreak on the third day a con-
tinuous stream of devotees poured into the
great buildings. Rajahs in bright silks and
glittering jewels, astride of thoroughbreds, of-
ficials in gorgeous uniforms, white-robed
priests, peasants, artisans and tillers of the soil
came side by side until the halls and courtyards
were filled to overflowing with a picturesque,
82 The Emerald Buddha
The ceremonies which lasted from sunset un-
til nearly midnight were of a most sacred sort
on which no unbeliever's eye might rest. But
when they were over Sherwood and Warren-
der, who had kept close to their quarters, re-
ceived an unexpected summons from the high
priest. They found him in the low-ceiled, sim-
ple room where he always received them. He
looked tired and wilted, but when his attendants
had departed and the door was closed, he rose
"Come," he said "briefly.
Closely followed by the other two, he crossed
the room and lifting an embroidered hanging
disclosed a cedar door having neither latch nor
handle. Reaching out one wrinkled hand, he
pressed the center of a lotus flower in the
carved border and instantly the door swung
smoothly and silently open, revealing a great,
high, vaulted hall, gorgeous with gold and
From the extraordinary richness of the place.
The Legend of the Emerald 83
Sherwood guessed almost at once that they
stood in the inner sanctuary of the Temple of
Vishnu. Great columns of stone overlaid with
gold upheld a wonderful ceiling of carved cedar
from which hung myriads of lamps. The walls
were covered with silken hangings, while
screens and lattices of sandalwood, gilded and
colored, masked the fronts of countless little
galleries which overlooked the hall.
Slowly the high priest led them forward until
at length he paused before an elevated shrine of
such amazing gorgeousness that it seemed to
focus all the light and color of this whole vast
place. And well it might, for within it sat the
presiding diety of the temple.
This was a life-sized male figure riding a
strange m3rthological creature with a human
body and the head, wings and talons of an
eagle. Covered with gold and jewels, with a
high jewelled headdress, it held in its four ex-
tended arms curious religious symbols. It
made a gorgeous, dazzling object, bewildering
84 The Emerald Buddha
to the eye, but even that brilliance paled before
the glowing marvel set in the center of the idol's
Glowing, glittering, pulsing with that glor-
ious blue eternal fire, the wonder of it fairly
took Kent Sherwood's breath away. Indeed,
to his wrought up senses, worked on doubtless,
by the hour, the place, and a remembrance of
the strange happenings of the past few days,
the diamond seemed to gleam with an almost
unearthly beauty. Utterly oblivious of his sur-
roundings, Kent stood motionless for he knew
not how long, drinking in its loveliness. He
was roused at length by a touch upon his sleeve
and obejang the Brahmin's gesture, he turned
reluctantly and followed his guide back through
the cedar door into the low-ceiled little room lit
dimly by two flaring oil lamps. Here the
priest seated himself in the ebony chair and mo-
e two Americans to stools nearby,
ading you into the sanctuary I have
rilege, but I am not afraid," said the
in a low, clear voice. "Only the most
The Legend of the Emerald 85
bigoted could deny you the privilege of behold-
ing Vishnu perfected and transformed. It was
your right, and to-morrow when you go forth
into the world again you will carry with you a
memory which can be matched by no other of
your race, I would that you might take with
you something, some token of our overflowing
gratitude. Mere money is of no service to a
man of wealth, and though I am the custodian
of a priceless store of holy jewels, these belong
to Vishnu; I have nothing to give save one
He paused, and Kent waited in silent, puzzled
"It is nothing tangible," resumed the Brah-
min presently. "One would call it merely a
memory, or perhaps a legend. But to a man of
cleverness and courage; to one loving jewels
for their beauty alone, apart from the clogging
dross of money value, it might well prove — re-
warding. Know then, my friend, that deep in
the trackless forests of Borneo lie the ruins of
a civilization so old that even the memory of its
86 The Emerald Buddha
passing is no more. Set in the midst of what
was once a populous city, but where for ages
wild beasts- have prowled, are the scattered re-
mains of a great temple — ^the Temple of the
Emerald Buddha. Age-old trees sprout from
its stone pavements. The winds and rains and
earth-shocks of centuries have left his halls
open to the skies. But amidst the ruins of its
ancient shrine the Emerald Buddha still sits,
holding in his outstretched hand a flawless
jewel the size of — ^this !"
With a curiously dramatic movement, the
Brahmin's thin, veined hands came suddenly to-
gether, the thumbs and forefingers outlining an
oval fully a third again as large as the blue
diamond. Sherwood gasped.
"You can't mean an emerald as big as —
that !" he cried.
"An emerald," repeated the old man posi-
tively, his hands dropping back to the arms of
the ebony chair. "I will tell you how I know.
Amongst the archives of our temple there were,
until three months ago, two papers. One of
The Legend of the Emerald 87
them was written centuries ago in the reign of
the great Akbar and told of a journey into
Borneo by one of the brethern. He was al-
lowed to inspect the jewel and pronounced it
a true emerald, the largest ever known. This
document was discovered about thirty years
ago by one Kahmid, a resident of the monas-
tery, who followed its directions and by great
toil and peril penetrated again to the ancient
city. He found it ruined and deserted, but the
image of Buddha had suffered no harm and in
its hand still glowed the emerald. The Dyaks
and other savage tribes believe it cursed, refus-
ing to venture within many leagues of the spot.
And, indeed, there may be something of truth
in their superstition, for Kahmid's own servant
was strangely slain while striving to take the
jewel, and he himself fled frightened from the
place. He made his way thence with difficulty,
and returning here wrote a full account of what
had passed before he died.'*
The Brahmin ceased speaking and for a mo-
ment or two Sherwood sat motionless, his eyes,
88 The Emerald Buddha
full of an odd mingling of doubt, excitement
and eager curiosity, fixed intently on the old
"You said these papers were in your ar-
chives?" he asked at length in a low tone.
The Brahmin inclined his head. "Until
three months ago when unhappily they were
stolen. The thief was one of the library at-
tendants, who had been with us a full year,
and gained our confidence by his piety and dili-
gence. We trusted him, and all the while have
been working solely to this end." The old
man's eyes flashed angrily. "I have learned
since that he was in the pay of one of the great-
est villians the earth has ever spawned. Have
you ever heard by chance the name of — Fu-
Sherwood stared at him blankly. "Fu-
chong?" he repeated. "I don't think — " A
sudden sparkle of returning memory glimmered
in his eyes. "Wait! Why, isn't he —
Hasn't he something to do with opium smug-
The Legend of the Emerald 89
"With that as well as many other evil
things," returned the Brahmin sternly. "He
is the curse of China, but so clever that for
years he has pursued his wicked way unscathed.
It is his brain which plans and carries out such
wholesale smuggling into China of the forbid-
den drug that the strictest laws against it are
rendered worthless as waste paper."
"But can't the government do anything?**
"It has tried more than once without success.
Rewards have been offered for his capture, and
once an entire regiment was sent to search the
province where he is supposed to lurk. The
difficulty is that to all but a handful of trusted
confederates, Fu-chong is nothing but a name.
Outside that little band no one has ever wit-
tingly stt eyes upon his face. He carries out
his plans through agents and they through les-
ser ones. Even my informant, close as he is
to that small central ring, has never seen the
creature. But he has learned that Fu-chong
has the papers and that he has not yet made an
90 The Emerald Buddha
effort to find the emerald. At my bidding he
will tell you all he knows about the man and cer-
tain special haunts where he is most likely to be
found. The burden of the rest will lie upon
your shoulders, for the people of Western
China go too much in terror of Fu-chong to lift
a hand against him."
For a space Sherwood sat thoughtfully silent.
"You believe in the truth of this story?" he
asked at length. "You think it really is an em-
erald, and that it is still there ?"
I do — ^firmly," nodded the Brahmin.
^And if we should succeed in finding it, you
think it could be rightfully considered ours ?"
"Why not ? To us Buddha is not a true god,
and the gem therefore has no special sanctity.
Nor has it ownership. The men who placed it
there have long since passed into oblivion.
Their very name is unknown to the present sav-
age tribes with which they have no kin. Bet-
ter that the emerald should be rescued by your
hands than lie there unseen, unknown, until na-
ture has destroyed it."
The Legend of the Emerald 91
Kent drew a long breath and rose suddenly.
"What you have told me presents fascinating
possibilities, but I must think it over carefully/'
he said. "At least it will do no harm to see
your friend and find out just how much he
knows. We are travelling more or less for
pleasure, and may as well have some definite ob-
ject to guide our feet. If you will write a let-
ter to your friend which will unseal his lips, I
will deliver it. After that we shall be governed
The Brahmin gravely inclined his head. "I
understand," he said briefly. "The writing
shall be in your hands at sunrise."
THE QUEST BEGINS
Over six weeks later Sherwood and Dick
Warrender sat together on the cluttered deck
of an antiquated Chinese steamer chugging
fussily along the upper reaches of the Yang-tse-
Both of them were deeply tanned and looked
very fit, for ever since leaving Shanghai they
had spent the better part of their time in just
such crafts as this, which form practically the
only means of travel in the interior.
The method was pleasant and comfortable
enough, if one did not mind rather primitive
conditions, but very slow, for the Chinese are
nothing if not leisurely. Indeed, Dick some-
times had a curious feeling that he had spent
months on end boarding boats, stowing away
their belongings, lounging about on deck, or
The Quest Begins 93
landing to inspect some sleepy little town where,
for no apparent reason, their steamer tied up
for days at a time. The high mud banks, the
closely cultivated country, the whole populous,
teeming panorama of Chinese life, had long ago
become an intimate, familiar part of his daily
existence, thrusting back into the recesses of
his mind the memory of their strange Indian
One thing, however, lingered vividly — ^the
thought of Fu-chong and the Emerald Buddha.
Even during the progress of Sherwood's busi-
ness negotiations at Calcutta, it had formed the
principle topic of conversation between the two,
and they had continued to discuss it daily with
an earnestness which increased as they neared
their goal — ^the Chinese city of Ho-kansu.
There were times, indeed, when Kent almost
decided to abandon the quest as something too
uncertain and dangerous for them to undertake.
But Dick, on whom the tale had taken a strong
hold, invariably stirred him to fresh enthusi-
asm, reminding him at his most pessimistic mo-
tinue the adventure further.
Indeed, everything seemed to hinge on the
unknown Sin-chow and what he had to tell
them. The Brahmin had mentioned him as a
dealer in old porcelains, jades and Chinese
works of art, but how such a person had become
the trusted agent of the aged priest of Vishnu,
Kent had never asked. He gathered, however,
that the man was a secret convert to the Brah-
min religion who had retained his place
amongst the opium smugglers that he might
better serve the head of that ancient faith.
In this wise the days and weeks passed and
now, with the squat, flat-roofed buildings of
Ho-Kansu appearing in the distance, both Sher-
wood and Warrender were keyed up and ex-
cited at the realization that in a few hours the
suspense would be over and there would be
something definite to guide their decision.
Half an hour later they landed, selected port-
The Quest Begins 95
ers for their luggage from the horde of dam-
orous coolies that besi^ed the quay, and made
their way to an inn.
Ordinary pleasure seekers are rare so far in-
land and, with the object of diverting any pos-
sible suspicion and making access to Sin-chow
easy and natural, Sherwood had long ago as-
sumed the role of buyer for a mythical New
York importing house dealing in antiques and
works of art.
It was one he was well qualified to carry
through* For years he had been a collector of
just such things and his knowledge of jades,
porcelains, rare ivories and the like was greater
than many a prof essionaL Indeed, he had al-
ready taken advantage of his opportunities to
pick up a mmiber of valuable articles at bar-
gain prices, and under his tuition Warrender
was rapidly acquiring a very creditable idea of
Having obtained quarters at the inn and set-
tled down, it was perfectly natural that Sher-
wood should inquire of the proprietor the names
96 The Emerald Buddha
of the best known dealers in the things they
sought. It seemed more than likely that Sin-
chow would be amongst them, and he preferred
obtaining the location of his shop in this way
rather than by direct inquiry.
But the inn-keeper, having mentioned in his
typically flowery verbiage, some six or seven
names, paused with a shrug of his fat shoul-
"And that, honorable highborn," he said, "is
all — ^save for a few low caste mongrels whose
shops contain nothing fit for princely eyes to
Sherwood hesitated. "Have I not heard
somewhere spoken the name of one Sin-chow,
dealer in rare porcelains?" he asked with af-
The Chinaman rolled up his eyes. "Alas,
yes, honorable highness," he replied. "But
Sin-chow, he no more. Twenty days ago he go
to join his revered fathers."
Sherwood bit his lips and swiftly turned
away his head to hide the bitter disappointment
The Quest Begins 97
that flashed into his eyes. For a moment he '
felt stunned, helpless. He scarcely heard the
inn-keeper telling him that one Fang-tsi now
kept the dead man's shop. But presently, pull-
ing himself together, he uttered a word or two
of thanks and with Warrender beside him,
walked slowly out into the street.
"What on earth is the matter?" demanded
the latter when they were out of hearing.
"Sin-chow is dead," Sherwood explained list-
Dick stared at him blankly. "Dead?" he re-
peated dazedly. "Dead!"
Kent nodded. "About three weeks ago.
Can you beat it?" He groaned. "To have
travelled three or four thousand miles and then
arrive a few miserable weeks too late !"
Warrender's jaw sagged. "You don't mean
we'll have to — ^give it all up ?"
"What else is there to do ? We don't know
within a thousand miles where this Fu-chong
hangs out. You remember what that Shang-
98 The Emerald Buddha
hai official told us? They think he makes his
headquarters somewhere near the Indian
frontier, but that's all. YouVe been studying
maps a lot lately, Dick, and youVe some idea
how long that border line is. Without some-
thing a lot more definite we might search for
the rest of our lives and get no nearer finding
him than we are this minute."
Gloomy, disconsolate, the two walked on aim-
lessly in silence. It was as if they had come
suddenly upon an impassable stone wall. And
with the falling of this stunning, unexpected
blow, the lure of the Buddha's emerald had
never been more powerful. At this moment
they both felt more confident than they had ever
felt before, not only of its existence, but of their
ability to somehow wrest from Fu-chong the
secret of its location and make the gem their
own. If someone had whispered in their ears
a hint of the present whereabouts of this mys-
terious and sinister person, they would have
flung themselves eagerly into the pursuit with-
out an instant's hesitation.
The Quest Begins 99
"Where are we going?" asked Warrender at
Sherwood shrugged his shoulders.
"Hanged if I know ! I just started out at ran-
dom because I had to do something.'' He
paused a moment. "I suppose we may as well
take a look at the shop. That fat geezer says
it's run by a chap named Fang-tsi."
There seemed little to be gained by the pro-
ceeding, but as Kent said they had to do some-
thing. Securing a guide, they followed him
down into the more densely populated districts
and after a number of twists and turns arrived
at a small, inconspicuous shop standing amidst
a perfect warren of low, straggling buildings.
Inside, the reposeful quiet was a pleasant
contrast to the chattering babel of the crowded
street. The shop was long, narrow and rather
dark, but there was light enough for Kent to
realize almost instantly that they had stumbled
on a mine of unusual richness. Gorgeous bro-
cades, mandarin coats and wonderful old em-
broideries draped the walls. The many shelves
icx) The Emerald Buddha
and tables were crowded with ivories, lacquer,
old bronzes and a hundred other treasures of
Chinese art. And such is the never-dying en-
thusiasm of the true collector, that Sherwood
instantly felt his spirits begin to rise and before
five minutes had passed the discovery of an
amazing piece of carved jade had momentarily
driven from his mind every thought of the
Buddha's emerald as if the gem had been a
thing of air and fancy.
There was good reason for his absorption,
for the jade, which stood alone on a teakwood
table, was an extraordinary piece of work. It
represented a perfect sphere around which
coiled a wierd, mythological creature, half ser-
pent, half dragon. The carving was exquisite ;
the color a deep sea green which seemed in cer-
tain lights actually to glow with a strange inner
Yet Sherwood, having learned the price,
thrust both hands into his pockets and turned
away to examine an incense burner of old
The Quest Begins loi
"Too much," he remarked over one shoulder,
in his fluent, slightly mongrel Chinese.
It was difficult to summon a convincing note
of indifference to his voice when ever fibre in
him thrilled at the very thought of the treasure.
But years in the Orient had taught Sherwood
that nothing is ever secured without bargain-
Fang-tsi, the present proprietor of the little
shop, impassive, expressionless, hands folded in
the voluminous sleeves of his loose gown,
raised his finely pencilled brows a fraction of
"Him very fine," he stated smoothly.
"Oh, so-so," shrugged Kent, running his
fingers lightly over the surface of the bronze.
Then he slowly turned around. "I tell you
what," he went on carelessly. "FU give you
There followed a clash of wits in which Sher-
wood brought to bear all his native shrewdness
coupled with an unusually thorough knowledge
of Oriental character. It lasted for some
104 ^'^^ Emerald Buddha
"What is it ?" he asked quickly.
Fang-tsi glided from behind the table. "I
go see," he murmured "Honorable highness
A WHISPER IN THE DARK
In silence Kent watched the man disappear
through the shop entrance. Then his gaze
sought the jade and rested lovingly on its mar-
"It's a wonder," he declared. "IVe never
seen anything equal to it. Why, a thing like
that if it ever got on sale in a New York shop
would bring at least a thousand dollars."
"It's a peach, all right," agreed Warrender.
For a moment he was tempted to ask Sherwood
whether the presence of the opium pipe had any
significance, but a glance into the shadowy
depths of the shop which might easily hide an
eavesdropper amongst its crowded furnishings,
decided him to wait until they were outside.
"He's got a lot of other bully good stuff here
too, don't you think?"
io6 The Emerald Buddha
''He certainly has. His bronzes are espe-
cially fine and I want to look them over. IVe
an idea this incense burner is pure Shang."
He took up the article in question and turned
it over searching for a signature amongst the
intricate embellishment. Evidently the collect-
or's fervor still absorbed him, so Warrender
stepped ov6r to the other wall to examine a gor-
geous hanging of salmon colored satin covered
with a mass of fine embroidery which had
caught his eye.
For a space there was silence. Then Sher-
wood heard a surprised exclamation from Dick
and looking around saw that he had lifted one
corner of the hanging and was peering behind
"Funny place for a door," commented the
boy. "I wonder if it's a closet or something
where he keeps his choicest things."
Sherwood laid aside the bronze and joined
him quickly, and together they lifted the hang-
ing a little higher. The wall was made of
planks joined closely in a smooth, unbroken sur-
A Whisper in the Dark 107
face. Directly behind the length of embroid-
ered satin, however, was a low, narrow door
formed of these same planks and extending
from the floor to the bottom of a shelf five feet
above. It was barely ajar; just enough, in
fact, to show the edge of an intricate brass
catch on the other side of the planking. On the
shop side there was no sign of knob or handle.
Evidently when closed the fact that there was
an opening of any sort would defy the keenest
Instinctively Sherwood pushed the door a lit-
tle further open. Behind was blackness unre-
lieved by even a glimmer of light. The air
which came through the narrow opening was
close, foetid, and mingling with it —
Sherwood caught his breath suddenly and
straightened, his eyes, wide, startled. An odor
had come to him, faint, barely perceptible yet
pungently unmistakable, which swept instantly
from his mind all thoughts of the Shang incense
burner and even of the precious jade. Over
one shoulder he darted a swift, searching glance
io8 The Emerald Buddha
down the length of the little shop. The crying
of the child had ceased, but in the street a crowd
seemed to have gathered. He could hear their
shrill, excited chatter and in the doorway were
outlined the backs of several native figures.
His gaze swiftly sought Dick Warrender's, and
in the other's face he read confirmation— cer-
tainty. Something more he saw there — some-
thing which, without the necessity of a single
spoken word, caused him to thrust the door
completely open and set his foot across the
A passage lay before them, straight, dark
and narrow. A faint glow shone at the fur-
ther end, and toward it, noiselessly in their
rubber-soled shoes, the friends moved swiftly.
A dozen paces brought them to a doorway,
where they paused, still in the shadow, to peer
into the room beyond.
This was small, rectangular and apparently
—---'--'—, The atmosphere was close and
leavily laden with that pungent, un-
almost nauseating odor which had
A Whisper in the Dark 109
brought them here. What light there was
came from a small hanging lantern — a curious
greenish glow which touched vaguely on a few
prominent objects but left most of the room in
There was a faint sheen of silken hangings,
a glint of something brass, like a brazier, on the
floor, the dull glow of ebony or teak which con-
stituted the framework of a bunk built against
the further wall. But these things the two
scarcely noticed. Directly under the lantern
stood a low lacquer table at which, cross-legged
on the floor, sat two Chinamen. Their backs
were toward the door and they were talking to-
gether in low tones, which had, however, a cer-
tain sibilant quality that enabled Kent to catch
the drift of what they were saying.
His impulse had been to withdraw quickly.
But the very first sentence he heard caught his
attention and riveted him to the spot.
"We shall have a fresh supply within ten
days? Fu-chong has promised it.'*
"Ah ! You have heard, then ?"
no The Emerald Buddha
"Last evening. He will be at the Mountain
of Happy Rest in seven days. A caravan is
expected from India and he is always there to
meet it. So, even if our opium grows low, we
know — "
The speaker ended with a shrug of silk-clad
shoulders and raised a tiny porcelain cup to his
lips. Sherwood had heard enough. Turning
swiftly, he grasped Dick's wrist and moved has-
tily back along the passage. His heart was
beating loudly and unevenly. Knowing China
as he did, he fully realized what it would mean
to be discovered in this sinister, hidden place.
The passageway seemed endless, but at length
they gained the door into the shop wall and
stepped through it quickly.
The panel clicked behind them ; the embroid-
ered satin fell over it in smooth, unrumpled
folds. Both of them were breathing hard, but
at the sight of Fang-tsi, just gliding through the
shop door, Sherwood caught up a graceful por-
celain vase of a rich, ruby glaze.
"... Yes, it's K'ang-hai period and very
A Whisper in the Dark iii
fine/' he said in a cool, casual voice. "Ah,
there you are. We've been wondering what
had happened to you."
Imperturable and suave, the Chinaman
paused before them. "Honorable highness
pardon," he murmured. "Child break arm.
Must carry to house and fix. He take long
"Your child?" asked Kent. "That's a
shame. I hope it wasn't a bad break. Well,
we won't bother you any more just now. I'll
just take the jade and be oflF. We'll come again
some other day."
With a bow, Fang-tsi took up the jade and
began to encase it in soft wrappings. Though
itching to be gone, the two friends chatted care-
lessly about some exquisite old carved ivories
as if they had not a thought or an interest in
the world beyond such things. At last the
money was paid over and they left the shop.
Even then they did not broach what was up-
permost in their minds. The way back to their
inn led through a labyrinth of narrow, crooked.
112 The Emerald Buddha
ill-paved streets crowded with a chattering,
jostling, heterogeneous throng of people.
Squat, muscular, almost naked coolies rubbed
elbows with dignified merchants in silk robes.
Farmers, artisans, peasants clad in rough blue
cotton padded along in their felt-soled shoes or
paused at booths or shops to chat with loimging
proprietors. Once a swaying palanquin with
close-drawn curtains crowded Sherwood and
Warrender to the wall. Again a herd of cattle
driven by bare-legged boys, caused them to seek
shelter in a doorway.
But Kent had a good bump of locality and at
last they emerged from the crooked tangle
which made up so large a part of the populous
city to one of the wider, less crowded thorough-
fares. For the first time they felt compara-
"You — understood ? " asked Sherwood in a
Warrender nodded. "An opium den,
wasn't it? I recognized the smell. You re-
A Whisper in the Dark 113
member that Shanghai official burnt some to
let me know what it was like."
''Yes, with a secret entrance through the
shop. Clever, isn't it ? Anyone can walk into
a shop without arousing suspicion. That panel
must work with a hidden spring. If the last
fellow through hadn't been so careless, we'd
never have found it in the world." He paused
an instant, his eyes narrowing. "Of course
you couldn't understand what they were say-
ing," he almost whispered.
Dick shook his head. His eyes were eager,
"They were talking of Fu-chong ! Think of
it, old man! Fu-chong! A caravan of opium
is coming in from India and he's to be at the
Mountain of Happy Rest in seven days to meet
Warrender's face flushed crimson; his eyes
sparkled. "Oh, boy!" he gasped. "What
luck — what simply corking luck ! By George !
I never thought — But, say! Where the
114 2"A^ Emerald Buddha
dickens is this — Mountain of Happy Rest?"
"YouVe got me," smiled Sherwood. "But
we ought to be able to find out by asking. It's
a suggestive name, isn't it ? " He gave a sud-
den, excited laugh. "It doesn't seem as if we
could have been so horribly down in the dumps
less than an hour ago, does it ? "
Warrender grinned. "I'll say it doesn't.
I'd just about given up all hope, and it seems
almost too good to be true, even now. Are you
still planning to work along the lines we laid
out aboard ship ? "
Sherwood nodded. "That was as good a
plan as any. Naturally we can't expect to get
hold of the fellow by ourselves. He must be
a clever old fox who has taken all sorts of pre-
cautions. But if we can locate this headquar-
ters of his and give information of it to the
Qiinese government that results in his capture,
we'll be in a position to claim the reward they
offer. And if I know anything about the Chi-
nese, they'll be only too glad to give me those
_ _ Fan 117
two japes tyxz ±e z:=sr-^ -z.-:, rr:^ ^^it moun-
of n2l Eoaev, r , ' -^ iizr ^-y^' r ■» -
_ o the trav-
where fe VocEzit ~ Ejrr Is -. ~ ly do to be
whether 'X m Tt lEi ii. :.*
was an old
1 no effect,
the old f el-
)ffl the city
THE MANDARIN OF THE PURPLE FAN
Sherwood's first efforts to obtain infor-
mation failed completely. The proprietor of
the inn assured him that he had never heard of
such a place. Blandly smiling, he declared that
never in his life had he so regretted the miser-
able ignorance of his poor and wretched self.
If wallowing in the mud of the unpaved court-
yard, or covering his useless head with dust and
ashes would gratify for an instant his glorious
and highborn guests, it would give him supreme
pleasure. But, alas —
Thus, also, several others about the place of
whom the two made guarded inquiries. Either
these people were really ignorant, or else they
had some reason for suppressing anjrthing they
knew about the Mountain of Happy Rest.
Sherwood dared not press his questions too
The Mandarin of the Purple Fan 117
closely for fear of exciting suspicion. He rep-
resented himself as having heard of the moiin-
tain mentioned as a spot of interest to the trav-
elling foreigner, and it would scarcely do to be
too persistent in the matter.
At length, however, they got a little light.
Amongst the attendants of the inn was an old
porter whom they had won over by occasional
presents of small coin. Kent had already
asked him about the mountain with no effect,
and he was rather surprised to have the old fel-
low draw him aside next day in a rather fur-
He had, he explained with the usual flowery
interlarding, been making inquiries about the
Mountain of Happy Rest with some success.
It was located, he had learned, nearly a hundred
miles west of Ho-Kansu, not far from the city
of Tsin-Tang. Further than that he knew
nothing, save that it was said to be a revered
and holy spot, once the site of an ancient Bud-
dist monastery, long since fallen into ruin. He
suggested that if they cared to undertake the
ii8 The Emerald Buddha
journey to Tsin-Tang, the governor of that city,
one Li-kiang-chow, was reputed to be an agree-
able and highborn nobleman, and would doubt-
less help them further in their search.
By this time the affair had become so great
an obsession that the two lost no time in mak-
ing arrangements for their departure. The
jade and certain other purchases were packed
up and left in care of the inn-keeper, and
though Kent rather hated losing sight of the
former, he had enough confidence in Chinese
honesty to be tolerably certain of finding every-
thing safe on their return.
Fortunately the trip could be made entirely
by water, and early next morning they em-
barked on one of the many light-draught boats
that ply the upper reaches of the river.
Four days later they disembarked on a mas-
sive, ancient looking stone quay, hired a porter
for their luggage and started for the inn, star-
ing about with lively interest and curiosity.
It was evident at once that Tsin-Tang, though
much smaller than Ho-ICansu, was a town of
The Mandarin of the Purple Fan 119
infinitely greater antiquity. Chinese civiliza-
tion is the oldest in the world, but their archi-
tecture IS of such a type that very little of it
Tsin-Tang was different. Here most of the
buildings were of stone — ^heavy, squared blocks
so worn and pitted that they seemed almost to
rival the pyramids in age. Unusual, too, was
the noticeable absence of ornamentation. The
louses were low, massive, simple in design, with
now and then curious, archaic carvings and in-
scriptions that had been almost obliterated by
time. Even the votive arches, though slightly
more ornate, had that same massive, solid, sim-
ple look as if they had survived from another
age, almost from another civilization.
"They look as if they'd been here since the
flood," commented Warrender.
"Don't they,'' agreed Kent. "And that tem-
ple there reminds me of some of the ruins we
saw on our way down to Calcutta."
"Maybe they got their ideas from across the
border," suggested Dick. "The frontier can't
120 The Emerald Buddha
be far. FU bet you could fish up some mighty
nice antiques here, Kent/'
"That's what weVe come for," said Sher-
wood, lowering one eyelid significantly.
"WeVe heard about the possibilities of Tsin-
Tang and want permission from his nibs, the
Governor, to hunt up some antiques. But first
we're planning to take a few days oflF from our
strenuous labors and see the neighborhood
sights. You're feeling a bit seedy, aren't you,
old man ? I thought so ; you look pulled down.
Nothing so trying to the nerves as our profes-
sion. A change is what we need — ^just a few
days of loafing, and looking at ruins and such
like. I wonder if it's going to be hard to get
an audience with the old top ? "
It proved remarkably easy. They had ar-
rived in the morning and as soon as they had
settled down, Kent despatched a polite and flow-
ery message to the Governor asking for an au-
dience. To his surprise — for such things
usually take time in China — it was granted for
that afternoon at four.
The Mandarin of the Purple Fan 121
"I guess the old duck's a bit curious," com-
mented Dick as they followed their guide to-
ward the palace. "I don't suppose a white man
shows up here once in a blue moon. Have you
noticed the way they stare at us ? "
"As if we were animals in the zoo," grinned
Sherwood. "Lucky we're not shy. This must
be the place. I hope the old gentleman knows
something besides the dialect they speak here.
So far we've got ahead mostly by sign lan-
A short flight of broad, shallow steps, much
worn and hollowed, led into an immense, stone-
paved hall where a dozen native guard3 were
lounging. An aged, weazoned Chinaman with
huge, tortoise-rimmed spectacles, came forward
and with many bows led them to a wooden
bench against the wall. He then disappeared
through an adjoining doorway to return a few
minutes later bowing profoundly. With many
gestures and a flow of words of which Kent un-
derstood about one in five, he invited them to
122 The Emerald Buddha
At the doorway he drew aside some heavy
curtains and motioned them to enter. When
they had done so, he let the draperies fall again
and the two found themselves on the thresh-
old of a long, rather narrow room panelled
entirely in teak. On the floor were spread
some almost priceless Qiinese rugs of a golden
yellow tone with designs in black. Here and
there were low stands and carved shelves hold-
ing a number of rare Ming figures, old bronzes
and some exquisite carved ivories. But the
strangest feature about this unusual apartment
was that it held only a single occupant.
Sherwood, at least, had expected that the
Governor of Tsin-Tang would be surrounded
by the usual throng of secretaries, guards and
attendants. But there he sat alone in a heavy,
carved teak chair, a gorgeous figure in his em-
broidered yellow satin jacket — ^plump, placid,
smiling, a fan of painted purple silk held lightly
in one hand.
The two visitors came forward bowing
deeply, and Kent, in somewhat halting phrases.
The Mandarin of the Purple Fan 123
began the usual ceremonious, exaggerated style
of greeting. For a moment or two he pro-
ceeded without interruption. Then he noticed
a sudden twinkle in the mandarin's narrow
black eyes. An instant later the plump face
wrinkled mirthfully and Li-kiang-chow chuck-
"Perhaps you would prefer to speak in your
own tongue," he remarked in almost perfect
Sherwood gasped, and then he laughed. "I
certainly should," he agreed. "My Chinese is
pretty much of a joke."
"You speak it well — for a foreigner," re-
turned Li-kiang politely. "Will you take
seats. I am glad to welcome you to Tsin-
Tang, where we see but few of other nations.
You come perhaps — on business ?"
Kent nodded and briefly explained that they
were in search of Chinese antiquities and hoped
to find some unusual ones in Tsin-Tang. Li-
kiang agreed with him. There were many
such, he said, as few came so far inland in
124 The Emerald Buddha
search of them. Doubtless they could be
bought cheaply enough. He would command
his chamberlain to draw up a list of various
dealers in works of art and have it sent to them
He went on to ask many questions about
themselves and their travels, and finally, after
half an hour of friendly conversation, Sher-
wood and Warrender arose to go.
"We're planning to take a little vacation be-
fore we do anything else," the former said cas-
ually. My friend here is not long over a bad
attack of typhoid, and I though we'd just lay
off for a few days and look up some of the in-
teresting features of the neighborhood.
What was the name of that old ruin we heard
of in Ho-kansu, Dick? Mountain of — er —
Happy Sleep, wasn't it?"
Li-kiang unfurled the painted fan, making a
sudden glow of gorgeous purple color against
his yellow robe.
"The Mountain of Happy Rest," he cor-
rected, smiling. "There is a ruin of a very
The Mandarin of the Purple Fan 125
ancient monastery on its summit, but it is
scarcely in the neighborhood. To reach it one
must travel over thirty miles through a rough
and wild country."
"Ought to make a fine little camping trip in
this weather," declared Kent enthusiastically.
"I suppose there's no reason why we shouldn't
go ? I mean it isn't holy, or taboo, or anything
"Not at all," returned Li-kiang, fanning him-
self gently. "Only the people say it is haunted
by ghosts of the dead monks, and few will go
Sherwood laughted. "I guess they won't
bother us any ; we're pretty tough. Could ydu
tell us how to get there ? "
The Qiinaman smiled. "I will do even bet-
ter," he assured them. "I will furnish you
with two guides who know the way and who
are not afraid of spirits — at least, not very
much. When do you wish to start?"
"Why not to-morrow morning?"
"Very well. The men will be at your inn at
126 The Emerald Buddha
eight o'clock. You will have to pay them, of
course." He chuckled "They will be willing
to go almost anywhere for real money. Here
the pay is small and frequently — delayed."
He chuckled again and rising ponderously,
offered them his hand in turn. It was a soft,
pudgy hand with the nail of the first finger
grown very long and protected by a thin, golden
sheath. On another finger he wore a magnifi-
cent ruby set in heavy gold carved in the like-
ness of a sinuous dragon.
"He's a pippin, all right," remarked Sher-
wood, when they had reached the street.
"Whoever'd thought of running up against an
English-speaking mandarin in this out of the
way place. I wonder he's contented so far
'Terhaps he finds it worth his while," smiled
Warrender. "Did you notice that ring?"
"Yes, and those Ming figures and pippy rugs
and things. The old boys must have it pretty
soft. I'll bet he doesn't miss any of his pay,
even if the men do. Well, he certainly treated
The Mandarin of the Purple Fan 127
us all right. Things seem to be working out
very nicely don't they? "
"I'll say so," agreed the boy. He lowered
his voice. "All that's worrying me is where
this Fu-chong person hangs out, if the moun-
tain and all the neighborhood is wilderness and
^That's what we've got to discover," replied
Sherwood. "It may be only a place of meeting
and not his headquarters. We can't tell any-
thing until we're on the ground. All we know
now is that he'll be there day after to-morrow,
and it's up to us to hump ourselves and not be
late for the appointment. If these guides
amount to anything and the country isn't too
rough, we might even reach there some time to-
Sherwood's hope of reaching the Mountain
of Happy Rest before sunset next day was
speedily doomed to disappointment. To begin
with it proved quite impossible to secure horses
and any sort of camping equipment at short no-
tice. Indeed, scarcely any progress in that di-
rection could be made until the appearance of
the two guides next morning, and even with
their services enlisted it was nearly noon before
the little party were able to mount and leave the
"Thank goodness we're off at last," said
Sherwood in tones of heartfelt relief, as they
passed through the western gate of the city
and set out along a wide road whose ragged
remnants of paving made it worse, almost than
the open country. "I don't know when I've
found Chinese methods quite so aggravating."
'They certainly are dead ones," agreed War-
render. ''At one time I began to think we were
going to take root in that inn courtyard." He
hesitated an instant. "I can't say I'm very
keen about that tall gink, are you ? "
Kent glanced ahead to where the two China-
men plodded along on spavined nags, leading
a ladened packhorse. One of them was slight
and bland and inoffensive enough except for a
rather sly expression in his slanting eyes. The
other, very tall and gaunt, had a saturnine caste
of countenance which was rendered almost sin-
ister by the fact that the tops of both ears had
been cut square off.
"He's no beauty, and that's a fact," com-
mented Sherwood, lowering his voice a trifle,
though there was little chance of either of the
men understanding English. "I may be mis-
judging the fellow, but he certainly looks like
a hard character."
"He's been a criminal, hasn't he?" asked
Dick. "Those cropped ears, I mean — "
130 The Emerald Buddha
"Sure; but I wouldn't hold that against him.
It doesn't take much to convict a man of crime
in this country. I've seen the most harmless
creatures lacking an ear or two. Well, I sup-
pose we shouldn't kick. Guides of any sort
are better than none, and I don't believe Li-
kiang is the sort to deliberately send us off with
a pair of utter ruffians. Besides, at the worst,
we've got our revolvers and ought to be able to
take care of ourselves."
Before many hours had passed, however,
Sherwood began to wonder whether his con-
gratulations on their good fortune had not been
a trifle premature. About five or six miles
from Tsin-Tang they left the main road and
turned southward along a narrow side track
which led through a rough, hilly country almost
deserted by human occupants.
The progress was extremely slow, and after
a few miles of it Sherwood rode forward to
ask the men if they were certain of their way.
They seemed so entirely sure of themselves that
his misgivings were temporarily lulled. But
when nightfall forced them to alight and make
camp in a rocky, wooded gorge which might
have been the center of a trackless wilderness,
those misgivings returned and with them a
growing suspicion of the guides.
He had nothing really definite against them.
The crop-eared fellow, who always seemed to
act as spokesman, assured him that this was
the only way he knew of reaching the Moun-
tain of Happy Rest. Ruined and deserted for
many generations and bearing a sinister repu-
tation which made it generally shunned and
avoided, the road one had to travel had long
since become rough and overgrown.
This sounded reasonable enough, but never-
theless Kent was not altogether comfortable in
his mind. And when they had finished supper
and lay down in their blankets beside the small
fire, he determined to be on the lookout for
For a few hours it was easy enough to keep
watch. Dick, lying beside him, was soon asleep
and the Chinamen, huddled on the other side of
the blaze, snmed also to have
slumber. But as the fire died
their muffled ^[ures faded gradually mto Diacic-
ness until at length Kent had only his ears to
depend on in case they stirred.
After a time he, too, began to grow sleepy.
He was lying on his side, head only protruding
from the blanket folds, with his revolver
gripped firmly in one hand. The fire had be-
come a mere bed of coals, dulled by the gather-
ing ashes, and at length his drowsiness became
so overpowering that Kent had to fight against
it by every means in his power save that of ac-
tual movement. He had heard no suspicious
sounds and had just about decided to get up
and pile some more wood on the fire, when all
at once that subtle sixth sense which works so
inexplicably, sent a sudden warning tingling
through his brain.
Like a cat he rolled over on his back, jerked
his hand from beneath the blanket and fired
point-blank at a shadow, darker than the over-
hanging trees, which loomed above him.
It was all the work of an instant. At one
and the same moment his brain perceived the
danger and his finger pressed the trigger auto-
matically, without him consciously taking aim.
A second later he fired again, this time at an
unmistakable human figure the revolver flash
had revealed crouching over Warrender. And
the shriek which followed, echoed by a muffled
cry, the falling of a body across his legs, and
Dick's startled waking shout, all seemed to
A moment later Sherwood had flung aside
the body that pressed against him and leaped
to his feet. At the sound of feet padding
down the slope, he sent a couple of shots in that
direction, but with apparently no result.
Then, without replying to Warrender's bewil-
dered questions, he fumbled for the pile of
wood and flung several branches on the glow-
As these blazed up he bent over the silent
figure lying across his blankets to straighten
with a grunt. It was the smaller of the two
134 '^f^ Emerald Buddha
Chinamen, and the glint of a wicked looking
knife he had dropped in falling, effectually
killed any regrets his impulsive action might
have brought him.
"The beasts ! '' he muttered. "I only wish
I'd got the other, too."
But apparently the crop-eared fellow had es-
caped unscathed. At least the sounds of his
hurried flight had died away in the distance,
and Sherwood knew how useless it would be to
attempt to find him in the darkness.
Naturally there was no more sleep that night.
Having built up the fire, the two wrapped them-
selves in their blankets and sat down before it to
discuss the situation seriously.
It was quite impossible to tell whether the at-
tempted assassination was the result of a delib-
erate plot to keep them from the mountain, or
merely an effort on the part of the two Qiina-
men to secure their valuables and belongings.
Of one thing, however, Kent felt certain.
They had been purposely led astray and at this
moment were quite likely even further from
their destination than when they left Tsin-tang.
Moreover, he had no real idea which direction
they ought to take ; but when dawn broke they
packed up and set forth without delay, travel-
ling more or less to the westward.
Fortunately the horses had not been dis-
turbed. Evidently in his hasty flight the crop-
eared Chinaman had been unable even to secure
his own nag. Having no desire to be further
burdened, Sherwood cut them both loose and
with a sharp whack of his riding whip sent
them galloping back along the trail.
"He'll have a long walk ahead of him wher-
ever he goes," he said grimly. "Now let's be
For hours they wandered through a rough,
wooded country which seemed to grow wilder
with every passing mile. Apparently it was
quite uninhabited, and the two friends were be-
ginning to despair when early in the afternoon
they came suddenly upon a native hunter, sav-
age looking and unkempt. At first he was in-
clined to be stubbornly, or stupidly, silent, but
136 The Emerald Buddha
the present of a handful of coin loosened his lips
and stimulated his intelligence. He told them
that the Mountain of Happy Rest lay some fif-
teen or eighteen miles due north, showed them
an overgrown mountain trail which led to it,
and then scuttled off, as if fearing they might
rob him of his coppers.
It was sunset when they rode wearily into a
narrow, shut-in valley, crossed a tottering stone
bridge over a swift stream, and saw far above
them the outlines of two square-topped towers,
standing out distinctly against the crimson
western sky. Out of the valley there woimd
an ancient relic of a road. Here and there it
was overgrown with bushes or clumps of wiry
grass. In places fallen rocks cluttered it, or
mounds of earth washed down by mountain tor-
rents. But in the main it was surprisingly
clear and open, and without delay the tired
horses were headed up the slope.
About two-thirds of the way darkness fell,
preventing further progress. Sherwood and
Warrender dismounted and leading their nags
into a grove of pines to one side of the road,
prepared a simple supper and immediately af-
terward spread their blankets on the ground
and fell into a prof ound, exhausted sleep.
THE CAVE OF THE GOLDEN DRAGONS
Dawn. . . • Eastward a faint touch of rose
crept up, wanning the cold, drab sky. The
shadows hugging the mountainside faded
slowly. A group of silver fir stood forth ; the
heavy flower clumps of a grove of enormous
rhododendrons lightened from black to a deep
Brighter grew the heavens ; the rose turned
to crimson shot with gold. Like molten metal
it spread on the surface of the river below —
that uncanny stream, so full of life and pulsing
movement, which, abruptly, incredibly, plunged
beneath the whole great mass of rock and earth
and vegetation and vanished out of sight.
Then swiftly came the sun — radiant, gleam-
ing, dispersing the last faint shadows with its
brilliance. The golden rays shot between two
The Cave of the Golden Dragons 139
massive ruined towers a little further up the
mountain, and bathed the rhododendrons in a
glow of light which brought out to perfection
their amazing crimson beauty. An instant
later the branches of the shrubbery parted and
Kent Sherwood stepped forth.
For a space he stood motionless, one hand
thrust deep into his jacket pocket, which bulged
significantly, while he searched the mountain-
side with swift, keen glances. Presently he
relaxed a little and glanced back over one shoul-
"All right, Dick," he said in a low tone.
"Nothing in sight."
There was a rustle and Warrender's face ap-
peared, framed in the green about him. His
face was streaked and travel stained, but his
eyes were bright and eager.
"I'm not at all easy about that crop-eared f el-
ow," observed Kent, in that same guarded tone.
"There wasn't much risk of his catching up
with us yesterday, but this morning — "
"You think he's likely to follow us? "
I40 The Emerald Buddha
"I should say it depended entirely on what
their object was in trying to knife us. If rob-
bery was the only motive, we'll probably not
see him again, but if — "
He broke off abruptly and gripped Warren-
der by one arm. "Duck ! " he whispered, drag-
ging him down into the bushes.
Along the curving road from the valley a soli-
tary figure had just comt into sight — ^a tall,
gaunt Chinaman who moved swiftly and stead-
ily up the grade. Watching closely through
the screen of leaves, Kent presently had his
suspicions confirmed. It was the crop-eared
fellow they had just been discussing. He
looked neither to the right nor left, and passing
their hiding place, he mounted the final ascent
to disappear through a ruined gateway set in
a wall between the two square towers.
For fifteen or twenty minutes the two Amer-
icans remained in hiding, discussing the situa-
tion in whispers. The Chinaman did not seem
to be searching for them after all. His man-
The Cave of the Golden Dragons 141
ner, on the contrary, was that of one making
straight for a certain goal. And since they
knew that his only weapon was a long, slim
Idiif e, they presently decided to venture forth
Keeping cautiously to the edge of the road,
they reached a square, level plaza back of which
lay the entrance to what must have been the
front of the monastery. This was thickly cov-
ered with grass and low bushes save where,
straight down the middle toward the gate, there
lay a wide, trodden path. The two friends ex-
changed glances. Though the building was in
ruins, it looked as if someone was in the habit
of visiting it pretty constantly.
Reconnoitering at the gateway, they saw
that it led into a wide, square courtyard.
There was grass here, too, growing in patches
of soil which had been washed over the great
stone slabs, and the path ran straight through it
to a wide doorway on the further side. The
Chinaman was not in sight, nor was there any
142 The Emerald Buddha
other sign of life; and at length, revolvers in
hand, the two crept noislessly across the silent,
empty space and safely gained the door.
The hall within was lighted brilliantly by the
sun, which poured through a series of tall, nar-
row window-holes, revealing mercilessly every
detail of gaunt, bare ruin. Here and there
were gaps in the ceiling where portions of the
upper floor had fallen through, and beneath
them lay piles of rubbish, small stones and
fragments of wooden beams, moss covered
and rotting. Several doors opened from the
apartment, and after a careful survey the two
friends chose one on the right for their further
explorations. The Chinaman seemed to have
vanished into thin air, but they realized that
he might be hiding in any corner, and advanced
with the utmost caution.
The room in which they found themselves
was even larger than the first one. So great,
indeed, was its width that the ceiling was sup-
ported down the middle by a row of massive
stone columns, each .one fully eight feet in di-
The Cave of the Golden Dragons 143
ameter. These were hexagonal in shape, and
as Sherwood, who led the way, reached the
nearest he made a startling discovery.
Instead of being solid, one of the six smooth
sides was a door cleverly constructed of a
wooden framework covered by a thin veneer of
stone. It stood slightly open, and with swiftly
beating pulse, Kent made haste to draw it wide.
Instead of being solid, the whole great column
was hollow, concealing a circular flight of nar-
row stone steps leading downward into dark-
In that moment there flashed upon the man
that here was the key to the riddle they had been
seeking. Somewhere in the depths below — in
caves or chambers hollowed in the moimtain
— was the lair of the mysterious Fu-chong.
There was an ease and well-oiled smoothness in
the mechanism of the door that hinted at con-
stant use. The crop-eared Chinaman had been
doubtless hastening to the rendezvous, and the
fact that he had neglected properly to close the
entrance looked as if he had no idea of their
144 The Emerald Buddha
presence in the neighborhood. And after all,
why should he? Save for that lucky encoun-
ter with the Hunter, the two would almost cer-
tainly have been wandering through the desert
wilderness miles away from here.
To descend might be risky, but both were
well armed and prepared for attack. More-
over, they would never have undertaken the
quest if they had been afraid of taking chances.
Kent did try to persuade Dick to let him go
down alone, but the boy wouldn't hear of it.
"Nothing doing," he declared in an emphatic
whisper. "You can't shake me just when
things are getting interesting. Besides, it
seems to me we'll be much better off together,
no matter what happens."
Sherwood gave a resigned shrug, and, slip-
ping through the doorway, started down, count-
ing as he went. The steps, steep and narrow,
curved around a slender central stone column.
At the end of the thirty-seventh Kent's explor-
ing foot encotmtered a flat stone pavement. A
moment later he was peering out on a straight.
The Cave of the Golden Dragons 145
flagged passage which ran past the foot of the
stairs. Instead of being in darkness as might
have been expected, this passage was faintly
illumined by a pale, curiously golden glow
which came through a squared doorway at the
The presence of that light, though it revealed
the entire passage bare and empty, sent an un-
comfortable nervous thrill through Sherwood,
and tightened his grip on the revolver. For a
long moment he paused irresolute, listening in-
tently. But not a sound broke the utter still-
ness of the underground place — ^not even a
whisper or the rustle of a garment.
He drew back to Warrender's side. "I don't
believe we ought to go on, Dick," he breathed.
"It looks queer."
The boy's lips almost touched his ear. "Just
to the door," he urged softly. "There's no-
body back of us and we've got our guns handy,
Stiealthily, noislessly, they crept over the
stone floor and gained at length the open door-
146 The Emerald Buddha
way. And there they paused amazed, wonder-
ing whether what lay beyond could possibly be
real, for it was like nothing either of them had
ever seen or dreamed of.
They were looking into a cave — ^vast, lofty
as a cathedral, its f artherest reaches fading im-
perceptibly into shadows so that at no time
could they take in its entire extent. Wh^t had
been so puzzling — ^the presence of light where
darkness ought to be — ^was now explained. Or
rather, it was not explained, but at least they
looked upon its source.
Straight down the middle of this strange
place were two rows of great golden dragons,
each one supporting a crystal globe which
glowed faintly with a curiously pulsating,
opalescent fire. The light from these globes
illumined certain near-by features clearly but
kept the greater portion of the vast cave in tan-
talizing shadows. The dragons, for instance,
"^ stood out distinctly — ^twisting, sinuous, repul-
sive looking creatures of dull, shimmering gold
which, in that wovering light, seemed to stir
The^ Cave of the Golden Dragons 147
and writhe as though they were actually alive.
There were hints and glimpses of other
things — gorgeous hangings of embroidered silk
and satin, splendid rugs scattered over the stone
floor, outlines of carved furniture, bronzes,
porcelains and the like. Directly opposite the
doorway was a low platform, behind which an
immense Buddha of golden bronze loomed
through the obscurity and seemed to dominate
the place. In front of it, on a sort of throne,
was another figure, much smaller, and — ^be-
cause of the placing of the lights — ^almost en-
tirely in shadow. Only the outlines could be
seen — outlines of head and shoulders, a fold of
flowing drapery, the gleam of two hands rest-
ing motionless on the arm of the thronelike
Kent stared at it curiously, striving to pierce
the shadows with straining eyes. What was
it made of ? he wondered. Ivory ? Lacquer ?
Carved and painted wood? There was a
strange sort of fascination in the thing which
seemed so lifelike, yet sat there as inert and
148 The Emerald Buddha
motionless as the great Buddha against the wall
behind. And then slowly, gradually, though
not a sound had broken the deep stillness of the
cave, he seemed to sense a human presence.
The feeling turned him cold. He was filled
with a sudden, overwhelming desire to escape
from this strange, shadowy, underground place.
With eyes still riveted on the platform, he
reached out and touched the boy beside him.
He had even taken a single backward step,
when, from somewhere close at hand, there
came a sudden click, followed by an ominous,
With a gasp, Sherwood whirled around. A
grating of heavy, riven steel was sliding
smoothly out of the passage wall directly at his
back. He gave a cry and caught at the moving
edge instinctively. But the pressure on his
fingers was irresistible. In another moment
the grating had touched the further side, cut-
ting oflf retreat completely.
At the same instant, back in the cave, the
double row of crystal globes flared up with a
sudden, blinding glare of light exactly as if an
electric switch had been turned, illuminating the
whole place brilliantly. The golden dragons
took on an added splendor; the priceless rugs
and hangings glowed gorgeously; fresh won-
ders were revealed. But Sherwood was un-
conscious of them all. His shifting, hunted
ISO The Emerald Buddha
gaze flashed despairingly from one side of the
blocked door to the other, where at least a score
of armed Chinamen stood close against the
hangings as if they had just emerged from hid-
ing places behind, and covered the Americans
with rifles or revolvers.
A sickening wave of self-reproach swept over
Kent at having brought young Dick Warrender
into such a trap. That was his first thought.
An instant later this and every other emotion
was swallowed up in amazement. Beneath the
monstrous Buddha, the figure on the low
throne, which he had thought might be an
image of carved ivory or painted wood, moved
slightly, and he f oimd himself staring into the
plump, placid, smiling face of — ^Li-kiang-chow !
Hope flashed up for a single instant only to
die swiftly. For though the portly mandarin
was smiling, there lurked in his slanting eyes a
sinister expression which was subtly evil. It
was a look which brought suddenly into Sher-
wood's mind the remark of a canny old Scotch
tea planter in Ceylon years ago : "Heaven help
ye, mon, if ye're ever up ag'in a fat villian —
who smiles ! "
And close on the heels of that memory un-
derstanding came to Kent. The identity of the
notorious Fu-chong was a mystery no longer.
He and the mandarin of Tsin-tang were one
and the same persons. They had solved the
problem which for so long had puzzled the
whole government of China, but what would
this avail them now? Bitterly the young man
wondered how many others might have
plumbed the mystery as they had done — ^too
Suddenly one plump hand lifted and at the
signal two stalwart Chinamen advanced. For
an instant Sherwood was strongly tempted to
resist, but fortunately sober second thought
came to him in time. A dozen weapons cov-
ered them. The slightest movement would be
inviting instant death. The chances were quite
in favor of that coming soon enough without
his doing anything to hasten it.
With a swift word of caution to Warrender,
152 The Emerald Buddha
he gave up his revolver. It was not so easy
to submit to having his hands tied behind his
back, but he went through the operation with at
least a semblance of cool indifference. Their
hands bound, the two guards led them across
the cave and paused at the edge of the low plat-
form. The mandarin surveyed them for a mo-
ment in silence, with that same placid, evil
smile ; his painted, purple fan moving gently to
^'It is kind of you to pay us a call so soon
again," he murmured presently.
Kent flushed angrily at the veiled sarcasm in
"If we'd only known what we know now, we
needn't have come so far to find — Fu-chong,"
he retorted impulsively.
"Quite so," nodded the Chinaman pleasantly.
"But then, you see, it wasn't my purpose to have
you know sooner. At Tsin-tang there might
have been some slip. Here — "
His smile deepened significantly and he
shrugged his satin-covered shoulders. A faint.
icy chill flickered momentarily on Kent's spine,
but his head was high and his eyes defiant.
"Too bad your guides were not a bit more
clever," he remarked. "They might have
saved you all this trouble."
"I'm not sure I expected them to accomplish
much, returned Fu-chong blandly. "They
were a stupid pair and one justly met the re-
ward of failure. And after all it is a pleasure
to entertain you here for a little while before —
we part again."
Abruptly Sherwood realized the futility of
bandying words with this suave villain. The
tremendous and passionate instinct of self-pre-
servation which comes to all men in such a pass,
now dominated him. He was beginning to
weigh the situation, to search his mind for pos-
sible ways of escape, to calculate their chances.
These seemed slight enough in all certainty,
but at least they would not be improved by de-
liberately antagonizing the man before him.
To delay action by any means in his power
would be much more sensible, and he was try-
154 The Emerald Buddha
ing desperately to think up something to that
end when all at once he realized that Fu-chor^
had ceased to smile on them and was staring
across the cave with a frown.
A moment later a Chinaman appeared noise-
lessly at the edge of the platform and in re-
sponse to an imperative gesture stepped close
to the mandarin and whispered in his ear.
There was a swift interchange of words and
Fu-chong*s face darkened. For an instant he
sat silent. Then he furled his purple fan with
a snap and gave a signal.
Four of the guards clustered about the door-
way hastened forward and closed about the
prisoners. Preceded by the person who had
been talking to Fu-chong, they moved swiftly
down the cave between the double row of golden
dragons for perhaps a hundred feet and then
turned sharply to the right.
Sherwood had just time for a hurried back-
ward glance which revealed the portly man-
darin sitting upright in his chair, eyes fixed in-
tently on the barred entrance. Then he was
hustled down a dark, narrow passage, pushed
along it a dozen paces and finally thrust through
a doorway into a small, square, dimly lighted
Dick was just ahead of him, and before either
of them had time to realize what was happen-
ing, they were lying on adjoining couches.
One of the guards covered them with a re-
volver while the others deftly and dexterously
tied their legs with thongs. In a space of sixty
seconds they were helpless, the door had
clanged shut and they heard the grating of a
key in the ponderous lock.
For a moment the silence remained unbroken.
Then Kent rolled over on his side and looked at
"If only you were out of this. Kid," he mur*
A flush burned into the boy's face and his
"I don't see why you say that," he retorted.
"I'd like well enough to be out of it, but I cer-
tainly wouldn't go alone."
156 The Emerald Buddha
'1 know; of course. I didn't mean that
But I got you into this and I ought to have
known better. If only you'd stayed — "
^'Oh, can that!'' cut in Dick impatiently.
''You couldn't have kept me out."
This was a sliffht exaggeration, l)ut Kent ap-
preciated the spirit that prompted it and his
"I ought to have made a stab at it, anyhow/'
he retorted. ''I should have tied you to one
of those big posts up there, seeing that you
wouldn't stay behind of your own accord."
He moved his shoulders slightly. ''Well, no
use grouching, I suppose. We'd better be
working our brains to see if there's a chance of
getting out of this mess."
His glance left the boy and roved curiously
about the room — for it was a room and not
another cave as he had at first supposed.
There was a wooden floor covered with rugs,
the couches on which they lay and several
stands and cabinets of carved teak. On one of
the fatter stood a graceful, porcelain bowl which
glowed with a soft, subdued light that puzzled
Sherwood. He had seen just such effects pro-
duced in modern decoration by an electric globe
cunningly placed in a vase of porcelain or ala-
baster. At first thought the presence of elec-
tricity in such a place as this seemed tcx^ incon-
gruous to credit. But after all he asked him-
self presently, why not. in these days of j^erfect
machinery and easy transp^>rtation? A dy-
namo of moderate power would easily supply
all the illumination they had seen so far. Then
his gaze and his attention bi^th returned to a
feature of the room which had interested him
tremendously from the verv first.
Every inch of wall and ceiling was panelled
in what looked like cedar. This woodwork was
carved elaboratelv with intricate, archaic de-
signs, and was plainly of enormous age. Not
alone did its appearance indicate this. In addi-
tion it gave out that faint, acrid, curiously pun-
gent odor of wood slowly disintegrating from
sheer dry-rot. It might easily have been placed
there when the ruined monastery above their
158 The Emerald Buddha
heads was in its prime, Kent decided, and then
of a sudden an object across the room riveted
On a narrow bracket fastened to the panel-
ling there stood a small, grotesque figure of a
Fu dog made of golden bronze. It was not
more than four inches high and, though a fine
piece of work, was not, in itself, an object of
great rarity. And yet, when he studied it,
something in Sherwood's memory faintly
stirred. Where had he seen that arrangement
of dog and bracket before ? For a moment or
two he racked his brain and then the answer
"Dick!" he said in a low, excited voice.
"Look at the Fu dog on the bracket there*
Don't you remember that room in the Nan-
yung temple with panelling like this that they
said was over a thousand years old? There
was a carved bracket on the wall and on it just
such a bronze dog. You pushed the dog a few
inches to the right and — "
"A hidden door in the panelling opened ! "
Trapped 1 59
gasped the boy. "Great guns, Kent, You
don't think that—"
"Haven't the least idea. I do know this,
though. When the Chinese get hold of a good
idea, they don't often waste time doping out
something better, but make another like it.
Anyhow, it's worth looking into. How are
your teeth. Kid? Pretty strong? "
Warrender stared. "Teeth?" he repeated
blankly. "What the dickens — Oh, I see."
For already Sherwood had slid off the couch
and was progressing around the end by rapid
evolutions of his lithe body.
"You'll have to come down from there," he
said in a low tone. "Don't make any more
noise that you can help. There's almost cer-
tain to be a guard outside the door. Try my
hands first. I haven't pulled to test the rope;
it only tightens the knots."
He lay on the floor with his back toward the
light. Dick squirmed over to him, took a good
look at the knots, and then tackled them with
his teeth. The job was easier than he had ex-
i6o The Emerald Buddha
pected. In five minutes Kent's hands were
loose and in even less time he had freed his
legs, untied Warrender's bonds and was on his
With Dick close beside him, he hastily
crossed the room and, seizing the Fu dog, tried
to push it to the right. The bronze did not
stir, and for a moment his heart sank before
he thought of shoving it the other way. This
time he was more successful. The little image
slid over easily ; there came a muffled click, and
instantly a section of the panelling about two
feet wide swung out into the room.
THE BRONZE LEVER
The Opening revealed a dark, narrow pas-
sage not particularly inviting. But Sherwood
paused only long enough to see that the catch
could be worked from behind before thrusting
Dick into it and closing the door after them.
No matter where the passage led, they could
scarcely be worse off than in that cedar room.
Kent felt that this was their only chance, and,
taking the lead, he moved swiftly forward
through the darkness, his outstretched hands
touching the walls on either side.
The passage turned twice before Sherwood
stubbed his toe against the bottom of a flight
of steps. With a thrill of hope he started up
them, but at the end of the seventeenth step
the passage resumed its interminable way
again. There was another sharp turn, and
then abruptly they came to a wide opening on
1 62 The Emerald Buddha
the right, where, after a momentary hesita-
tion, Kent ventured to light a match.
By its flickering flame he saw that they stood
at the entrance of a fairly deep recess, the fur-
ther side of which was made of metal, curiously
curved and hollowed. To the left it was a
short flight of narrow steps ending in a small
door fitted with a simple catch. Directly in the
middle of the space a long, heavy lever of
bronze rose from a narrow slot in the wooden
floor. This much Sherwood observed before
the match burned out. An instant later a low,
startled whisper came from Warrender, who
had remained in the passage to keep watch.
"Someone's coming ! "
Sherwood gained the entrance with a bound.
Approaching along the passage in the opposite
direction from which they had come, moved a
lighted lantern. Its rays fell upon a pair of
legs swathed in loose Chinese trousers and ter-
minating in felt-soled shoes. Kent caught the
boy's arm and dragged him into a corner of
The Bronse Lever 163
"There's just a chance that he may pass
by and not see us," he breathed. "If he
Under his fingers Dick's muscles tensed sud-
denly and he knew that the boy understood.
Crouching in the corner they waited breath-
lessly until the light began to flicker in the pas-
sage. Brighter it grew and brighter still.
Then all at once it ceased to move and there was
a little click of metal on stone as if the bearer
had set it down. A moment later the figure
of a Chinaman loomed in the entrance.
Motionless in the corner, lithe body bent
slightly forward, Kent poised ready for a
spring. But the man did not pause. With the
air of one perfectly at home in that semi-dark-
ness, he swiftly crossed the narrow place and
lifted up one hand. There was a faint scrap-
ing and instantly two narrow slits appeared in
the metal wall at least three feet apart.
Through them a clear light penetrated, bringing
into sharp relief the evil face of — ^the man with
the cropped ears ! 1
1 64 The Emerald Buddha
He bent his head a little to peer through one
of the narrow openings. Without withdraw-
ing his gaze, his right hand reached out and
gripped the lever-handle, and he moved slightly
forward and back as if testing some mechan-
ism. Then all at once he turned his head and
A flash of recognition leaped into the evil,
slanting eyes, followed by intense surprise and
a sort of venomous purpose, mingled with a
touch of fear. His lips parted swiftly, but be-
fore a sound came forth, Kent's fingers closed
about the skinny throat and he bore the fellow
backward to the floor.
A silent struggle followed, fierce yet brief.
Dick dodged around them trying fruitlessly to
lend a hand, but at no time was there really any
need. Sherwood was a mass of live muscle
strung on steel wire, and when he loosed his
grip a few minutes later, the Chinaman fell
back, limp, unconscious.
Thinking that it might possibly be of later
use, they had brought along the very cord with
The Bronze Lever 165
which they themselves had been tied. With
this they tightly bound the Chinman and thrust
a handkerchief into his mouth to gag him.
Then, while Dick stood guard over the captive,
Sherwood stepped quickly back to peer through
one of the narrow slits.
Then and only then did he realize their
whereabouts. They were standing inside the
head of the great bronze Buddha of the cave.
The slit was merely a peephole in the left eye of
the image. There could be no doubt about it.
Within his vision were at least a dozen of the
golden dragons holding aloft their glowing
crystal globes. Beyond them Kent could dis-
tinctly see the entrance, now clear and open,
with several of the guards standing on either
His gaze shifted; paused for a moment on
the close-fitting yellow satin cap of Fu-chong,
who sat directly underneath ; flitted to the small
ebony stand on the mandarin's left hand,
where, bulging beneath an embroidered cover,
lay their precious revolvers. Finally it came to
1 66 The Emerald Buddha
rest upon a man who stood below the platform.
He was tall, lean, dark-faced and smoothly
shaven. At first Sherwood took him for a
Sikh, whose garb and turban he wore. Then
he noticed that the spotless linen tunic had been
torn roughly away from one shoulder and hung
in tatters. Just below the stranger's throat
there was a sharp line of color demarcation.
Above it face and neck were dark as any na-
tive's. Below that line Kent caught glimpses,
beneath the tattered linen fragments, of a mus-
cular chest and upper arm as white as was his
The discovery sent through him a shock of
keen surprise. Then he realized that Fu-chong
was speaking and strained his ears to hear.
*'And so you thought that a little dye and a
change of clothes would, in my eyes, transform
a British officer into a Sikh," remarked the
mandarin, his silky tones tinctured with not a
little irritation. "I thank you for the compli-
ment to my intelligence. No doubt you also
supposed that your horde of Indian soldiers so
The Bronze Lever 167
flimsily disguised as bearers of the opium cara-
van would be admitted here without question.
It must have been an unpleasant surprise to find
yourself obliged to precede them alone."
He paused, but the man before him made no
answer. Erect, soldierly in spite of his bonds,
his clear, brown eyes fearlessly returned the
mandarin's heavy-lidded stare. Watching
him, Sherwood felt a thrill of admiration at the
"Stubborn," murmured Fu-chong at length.
"I fear it will do no good. We have you safe
and do not mean to let you go. I wonder what
those men of yours will think when the days
pass and you fail to return ?"
Still the man was silent. And now, of a sud-
den, Kent observed for the first time the curious
bronze slab set into the floor of the cave di-
rectly at the foot of the platform. It was par-
tially covered by a rug and he had not noticed
it before. But from this point of vantage it
stood out clearly — ^a rectangle of bronze some
twelve feet long by a third as wide, centering
1 68 The Emerald Buddha
directly on the great Buddha. The stranger
stood a few inches beyond its further margin.
Sherwood was conscious of a sudden, unac-
countable interest in that slab. What was it
there for ? What purpose did it serve ? Like
many wanderers in strange climes where dan-
ger often lurks in unexpected guises, he had ac-
quired an almost uncanny power of sensing evil.
And now, abruptly, that bronze slab loomed
in his brain as a distinct menace, vivid and im-
minent. His interest in the problem caused
him to miss a few words from the creature in
the yellow cap below him. Then all at once Fu-
chong's voice rang out harshly :
"Step forward V'
The Englishman did not stir, but for the first
time he broke his prolonged silence.
"Why should I?" he demanded icily.
"YouVe got me. You can drag me anywhere
you like by force, not otherwise. And let me
tell you this. You talk about those men of
mine wondering what has happened to me.
They'll wonder, but they'll wait — ^wait 'till
The Bronze Lever 169
Doomsday. They'll wait until you and your
litter of beastly, burrowing rats are starved
enough to crawl out into their hands. No mat-
ter what you do to me, you've got to face that."
Silence, tense, pregnant, followed for an in-
stant those defiant words. Then suddenly,
with surprising nimbleness, Fu-chong sprang
up and stepped down swiftly from the platform.
Lifting the folded purple fan, he struck the of-
ficer across his face with a force which splin-
tered into fragments the ivory sticks.
"You scum !" he snarled furiously.
Swiftly responsive to that leaping crimson
welt, the blood flamed hotly into Sherwood's
face. His hands clenched, driving the nails
painfully into his palms. The intuitive sense of
imminent peril grew more pressing. Somehow
he had begun to connect it with the slab, and
his brain wrestled desperately with the prob-
lem. What was it there for ? Fu-chong stood
squarely on it — squarely and safely; and
yet — . . . Ah! A sudden, blinding light
flashed into Sherwood's consciousness. The
170 The Emerald Buddha
crop-eared Chinaman had come into that re-
cess with a purpose. . . . The lever! Could
that be it?
With quick impulsiveness he grasped the
handle of the bronze rod and thrust forward
with all his strength.
There came a muffled, grinding jar. A
scream, shrill, terrifying, horrible, rang
through the cave. The slab swung down
abruptly, revealing glimpses of a bottomless
abyss, out of which came the sotmd of rushing
water. Fu-chong tottered, clawed frantically
at the lower step of the platform, and then,
with another shriek that froze the blood, he
vanished out of sight.
THE END OF FU-CHONG
For one brief, paralyzed second Sherwood
stood rigid, sweat dampening his forehead.
Then, as his glance took in the stunned and
frightened group of Chinamen over by the
door, he awoke to instant action.
Quick!" he ripped out to Dick Warrender.
Fu-chong's done for — dropped into the bowels
of the earth. The others are scared stiff.
Our only chance is to rush 'em before they come
to. I know where the gtms are."
He had remembered the narrow flight of
steps leading down from one corner of the re-
cess and felt that the door at the bottom must
open into the cave, close to the right hand of
the Buddha. Gripping in one hand the slim,
straight knife he had taken from the crop-
eared Chinaman, he swiftly darted down the
172 The Emerald Buddha
stairs, thrust the door open> and with Dick close
at his heels, sprang out upon the platform.
At the appearance of these two, whom they
supposed helpless captives in the cedar room, a
gasping shudder rose from the throng huddled
about the doorway. Already dazed and ap-
palled by the fate of their leader, whom they
had regarded as invulnerable; ignorant and
superstitious at best; this new development
seemed to their addled minds a fresh evidence
of their god's displeasure.
As Sherwood twitched the cover from the
stand on which lay the revolvers, one of the
guards fired a hasty shot in their direction.
But the bullet went wild, striking the sacred
Buddha on the breast and bringing added con-
sternation to minds already on the verge of
panic. A shot or two fired at random com-
pleted the work and sent them scurrying to
right and left like rats seeking their burrows.
Nevertheless, Kent did not deem it safe to
linger. He took the gaping chasm in a running
jump and paused beside the stalwart English-
The End of Fur-Chong 173
man, who had scarcely stirred from his first
position. A stroke or two of the keen knife
freed the stranger's hands.
"Thanks," the latter murmured coolly.
"You chaps are extraordinarily well timed, you
Sherwood grinned briefly. "You've some
men up above, haven't you ?" he asked briefly.
The other nodded.
"Well, let's get to them," pursued Sherwood.
"These beggars are a rotten lot, but even rats
fight when they're cornered. I'd like to have
the odds a little more in our favor before they
wake up and realize the trap they're in."
He started briskly across the cave with Dick.
The Englishman paused a moment to glance
into the cavity at his feet with an expression of
profound satisfaction. Then he hastened after
They found the entrance clear, and lost no
time in mounting the winding stairs. The door
in the stone column opened easily from within,
and while Sherwood remained there to guard it,
174 The Emerald Buddha
Warrender and the officer, whose name was
Curtis, hastened out into the courtyard.
This was a scene of the liveliest animation.
Saddle horses and laden pack animals were
tethered here and there. Two large fires were
burning and around them were gathered up-
wards of fifty Hindoos and Sikhs, who started
up with exclamations of pleasure and relief as
the officer appeared.
A few words from him sent them scurrying
for their weapons, their dark faces fierce and
determined. A couple of minutes later, under
the leadership of a native officer, they were ad-
vancing toward the ruin in a compact, soldierly
"They're a fine lot," observed Captain Cur-
tis. "I picked them especially when we hit on
this scheme of sending up a fake opium caravan
to catch that fox, Fu-chong. He was a fox,
too, by Jove ! I had no idea he'd insist on my
coming in first alone, and of course I couldn't
draw back then without spoiling the whole
show. If it hadn't been for you chaps — "
The End of Fu^Chong 175
"We were just as easy," protested the boy.
"You see, we'd heard something abotit the loca-
tion of this place and our idea was to spy about
and make sure. Instead, we walked into a trap
as nicely as you please. Though it was a
pretty good trap," he added defensively.
"And you don't seem to have stayed in it
long," observed the Englishman. "I've been
through some odd experiences, but I don't think
I've ever had quite such a shock as when that
fat devil went suddenly through the floor, claw-
ing ind squealing. To see him fall into his
own trap so neatly was really worth all the pre-
vious wear and tear on my nervous system.
I'm most awfully keen to hear how you man-
aged it, and a little later — Well, here we are.
Now let's get to business."
A little more than two hours afterwards they
were standing again in the great cave of the
golden dragons. Fu-chong's adherents, who
had been run to earth and captured almost
without resistance, were now safely under
guard in the monastery courtyard. Captain
176 The Emerald Buddha
Curtis and the two Americans had swopped
stories and a few minutes before had returned
from a thorough exploration of the under-
grotmd retreat. Besides finding conclusive
evidence that it was the headquarters of the
opium smugglers, they had come upon a num-
ber of ingenious modern improvements, in-
cluding the electric dynamo Kent suspected.
Best of all was the discovery in a little room
opening off the secret passage of an extremely
up-to-date steel safe cleverly placed within a
cabinet of red lacquer. It was locked, but a
little mental pressure applied to Fu-chong's
right hand man induced him to supply the com-
bination. It contained an amazing store of
money and jewels, together with several bun-
dles of papers amongst which Kent tri-
umphantly unearthed the two pertaining to the
Emerald Buddha which they had so long been
"I see no reason why you shouldn't simply
take them and say nothing," said Captain Cur-
tis when they returned to the central cave.
The End of Fu^Chong 177
"Of course I shall have to report the result of
this raid to the Chinese government and stay
here until they take charge of the place and the
prisoners. If you should wait *till then and
make a formal demand for the stolen papers,
you'd be involved in all sorts of delays and red
"That would be much the simplest way, of
course,*' agreed Kent. "You're sure you won't
be getting into any sort of trouble by letting us
have them T\
The Englishman laughed. "I'll take a
chance" he answered. "To begin with I doubt
whether anyone, except a few of the prisoners,
perhaps, knows of their existence, and they're
not likely to think of them now. Besides, if
the question ever did come up, I should merely
say that the papers were stolen property and
I had turned them over to their rightful own-
"Well, I'm sure we're awfully obliged — ^"
"You needn't be," interrupted Curtis quickly.
"As a matter of fact it's quite the other way
178 7 Emerald Buddha
around If it hadn't been for you two chaps,
I should probably by this time be feeding the
fishes instead of Fu-chong — if there are fishes
down in that beastly hole. What do you mean
to do now ?" he added curiously.
"Start back to Shanghai at once and take
ship there for Borneo," answered Sherwood
promptly. "Once at Labuan we'll have to pick
up guides and porters and get together a lot of
supplies, for according to these papers it's
rather a long trip up country."
"Jove !" murmured the officer, his eyes spark-
ling. "I wish I was going with you. It will
be a fascinating search."
Sherwood smiled. "We'd like nothing bet-
ter than your company," he returned promptly.
"If you could get leave — "
"Ah, but I can't," sighed Curtis. "It's very
good of you, but I shall be stuck here at this
beastly business for months. You know the
Chinese methods. Well, suppose we join the
men. I'm pretty hungry, and you chaps must
be almost starved."
The End of Fu-Chong 179
He crossed the cave, but at the entrance he
paused for an instant to glance back at the
glowing, colorful, weirdly silent, desolately
empty spaces behind him.
"It's certainly a rum place,*' he remarked
"Do you imagine Fu-chong was responsible for
that gorgeous equipment?"
"Oh, no!" returned Sherwood quickly.
"Most of the stuff has been here for ages.
That cedar room, for instance, the big Buddha
and those golden dragons are as old as the
ruins above us. So is that bronze trap letting
down into the underground river. I Ve an idea
the whole place was once an adjunct to the old
monastery. In all probability Fu-chong merely
discovered it and adapted it to suit his pur-
"He made a good job of it," commented Cur-
tis, moving on down the passage toward the
curving stairs. "It's rather the irony of Fate,
isn't it? that in the end he should have been
caught in his own beastly trap."
THE WRECK OF THE OCEAN QUEEN
Early the following morning Sherwood and
Warrender, having recovered their horses and
belongings, waved farewell to Captain Curtis
and set out on the journey back to Tsin-tang.
They were accompanied by three Sikh soldiers
and one of Fu-chong's captured band to act as
a guide. Toward noon, coming out on a road
which, according to the Chinaman, led straight
to the city, the soldiers and their prisoner
turned back, leaving the two Americans to pro-
They reached Tsin-tang about sunset and
went straight to their old inn where they
learned that a boat would start down the river
early the following morning. Having ar-
ranged to take passage on it, and conveyed their
luggage to the quay, they ordered supper and
turned in early.
The Wreck of the Ocean Queen i8i
A guarded inquiry elicited from the inn-
keeper the information that Li-kiang-chow was
temporarily absent from the city on important
business. Evidently no inkling of the true state
of affairs had as yet become public property,
for which Sherwood was very thankful. He
had no wish to be detained by Chinese officials
as a witness or anything of the sort, and it was
with considerable relief that they boarded
the little steamer without interference and
watched, from the after deck, the low roofs and
massive buildings of Tsin-tang fade slowly out
Fortune favored them on the return trip.
The stop at Ho-kansu was long enough for
them to pick up the precious jade and other
purchases left there at the inn. But after that
there were few delays, and they arrived at
Shanghai just in time to engage passage on the
Ocean Queen, bound for Borneo, Java and the
After the strenuous activity of the past few
weeks, it was distinctly pleasant to settle down
li^ The Emerald Buddha
into the restful calm of ship life. Their vessel
wus a trader of moderate tomiage carrying
only a few passengers, none of rwhom proved
interesting enough to encourage anything like
intimacy. Indeed, the two Americans rather
preferred to be let alone, and they spent most
of their time lounging idly in deck chairs dis-
cussing their recent strange adventures or lay-
ing plans for the future.
For the first few days the weather was calm
and very hot. All day long the sun beat
fiercely out of a cloudless sky until the pitch
fairly bubbled in the seams, and in spite of the
thinnest clothing the heat was almost intoler-
able. At dusk, however, a breeze usually
sprang up, lasting well through the night, and
reviving exhausted passengers and crew, and
making it possible to get through another torrid
Then, in the middle of the China Sea, a sud-
den gale struck them which came near proving
the end of the Ocean Queen and everyone on
board. As Sherwood strongly suspected, it
The Wreck of the Ocean Queen 183
was really a typhoon, and all that saved them
from going down was the fact that they were
nearer the edge than the center of the disturb-
ance. As it was, the ship was caught up and
carried along irresistibly, and for most of an
afternoon and half the night she battled des-
perately for her life against the furious winds
and colossal seas.
Warrender, whose only deep water experi-
ence had been that placid voyage from Van-
couver to Hongkong, was awe-struck and
alarmed, but he did his best to emulate Sher-
wood's coolness. Battened below deck and un-
able to stir without being flung about by the
ship's violent tossing, they spent most of the
time in their cabin. Sleep, of course, was out
of the question; without being roped in they
could not even have kept their berths. Spread-
ing mattresses on the floor, they braced them-
selves against the solid woodwork and en-
deavoured by conversation to forget the peril
and discomfort of their plight.
Shortly after midnight Sherwood began to
184 The Emerald Buddha
notice a definite lessening of the tempest. An
hour later the cessation of motion was blissfully
evident, and he left the cabin to find out how
things were going and whether the ship had
been in any way damaged. He presently re-
turned with the news that the second mate and
three of the Kanaka crew had been washed
overboard, part of the bridge smashed by the
powerful -waves, and the hull severely strained
and leaking in several places.
"They've started the pumps, though, and
have the water well under control," he added re-
assuringly. "It must have been a mighty close
squeeze, all right, and I'd hate to think what
another hour or two of that wrenching might
have done. However, Captain Briggs says
we're riding out of it, and there's no more dan-
ger, so we may as well make up the bunks and
try and get a little sleep."
It was good advice, of course, but Dick War-
render did not find it easy to follow. Tired as
he was, his nerves were distinctly jumpy, and
it seemed hours before he finally dozed off.
The Wreck of the Ocean Queen 185
lulled by the growing steadiness of the vessel.
His next conscious realization was of a ter-
rific crash which flung him clear of the bunk
to sprawl full length on the floor. It was fol-
lowed by a crushing, grinding, colossal up-
heaval of the vessel's hull, a shuddering tremor,
a sickening downward lurch. And then, as the
boy crouched there, stunned and bewildered,
screams rose from far and near — ^hoarse, bel-
lowing, or shrill with fear ; doors began to slam
and feet padded swiftly along the corridor out-
side. Suddenly Sherwood's hand, fumbling in
the darkness, touched his shoulder.
"Slip on a few clothes," the man said in a
tense, strained voice. "Hurry !"
Dick obeyed as quickly as he could. It was
pitch dark, for the electric switch failed to re-
spond to repeated pressing of the button, and
nothing seemed to be where it ought. His
hands were shaking nervously, but he finally
managed to retrieve and drag on a pair of trou-
sers, shirt and rubber-soled shoes, and followed
Kent into the corridor.
iS6 The Emerald Buddha
There was no light here, either, and the floor
h"sted oddly toward the forward companion-
way. Sherwood hesitated an instant and then
catching Dick by one arm, felt his way in the
opposite direction. Part way along a cabin
door was jerked open and a shadowy figure,
from which came incoherent sounds of fright,
pushed past them and ran forward. He van-
ished instantly in the blackness and with a
grunt, Kent dived down a short side passage,
climbed a strangely tilted stair and with War-
render close at his heels, gained the after deck.
The sky was clear save for a few tattered
remnants of cloud that streamed across the yel-
V crescent moon. The ship sloped perilously
-ward, and from the bowels of her came
ange, terrifying noises — the screech of rip-
;g iron, the sharp crack of parting timbers,
lissing roar of steam from broken pipes,
latever she had struck, whether floating
■elict or unchartered reef, the Ocean Queen
5 very evidently doomed.
iVhere the two stood the deck was deserted,
The Wreck of the Ocean Queen 187
but forward around the starboard boats there
surged a mob of fighting, screaming men the
sight of which turned Dick's blood cold.
There were naked, dark-skinned Kanakas,
wild-eyed and panic stricken ; sooty-faced stok-
ers with bare, brawny arms and chests, half-
clothed passengers and stewards, all struggling
together like madmen for places in the boats.
Against them the few officers had small chance
of lowering and filling these in any sort of or-
der. Indeed, even as the two friends stood
there aghast, the mob made a sudden concerted
rush at a boat just swinging out on its davits.
Twice a pistol spat viciously, but it might have
been loaded with blank cartridges for all the
eflFect it had. The crowd surged on and over
the blue-clad figures dimly visible in the moon-
light. In an instant the boat was filled far be-
yond its capacity. And then, through some ac-
cident or evil design, the block ropes parted sud-
denly, and the stern swung down abruptly,
spilling the whole raving, screaming load of hu-
manity into the sea.
i88 The Emerald Buddha
Dick gave a stifled cry of horror and Sher-
wood gripped his arm.
"Come around to the port side," he said
hoarsely. "There's no chance here. Those
But as they were passing the companionway,
a man with an armful of packages darting up
from below, collided with Warrender and was
almost knocked off his feet. As Kent reached
out and steadied him, he recognized the face of
Daggett, their table steward.
"Mr. Sherwood!" gasped the man. He
hesitated an instant and stumbled on toward
the stern. "Come on!" he cried jerkily over
one shoulder. "WeVe got a boat. . . .
There's room. . . . Hurry!"
The two needed no urging. Darting after
the steward, they came suddenly upon a grimed
and burly stoker standing before the port rail
aft of the shattered deck house. Tied to the
railing beside him was a rope which dangled
down into a small boat holding two occupants.
The Wreck of the Ocean Queen 189
The stoker greeted their appearance with a
"It's only Mr. Sherwood and the boy, Bill,"
panted the steward. "We've room enough."
"There ain't room for the whole bloody ship-
load," growled the fellow. "Gimme them."
He snatched the parcels from Daggett's arms
and tossed them into the boat. "Look sharp.
Daggett seized the rope and scrambled over
the side. It was not much of a drop, for the
ship was perilously low in the water and seemed
to be settling visibly. The stoker went next,
and he was scarcely out of sight before Sher-
wood swung the boy over and followed hastily
They all landed in a confused heap and im-
mediately the boat was thrust off and the two
seaman pulled furiously away from the sinking
ship. Dick managed to crawl forward a little
and presently found himself beside the stoker,
pulling vigorously on an oar which had be^n
190 The Emerald Buddha
thrust into his hands. They were not more
than a hundred yards away from the Ocean
Queen when a sudden, violent explosion shook
the vessel from stem to stern. A cloud of
steam belched from the open hatchways, the
bow settled abruptly, throwing the stern for
an instant clear out of water. A moment later,
amidst a fresh burst of frenzied screaming
from the deck, the shattered hull slid out of
sight beneath the waves.
For a space Dick was fully occupied in strug-
gling against the powerful suction which
caught their boat and threatened to drag it
down. When this had passed he heard Sher-
"But oughtn't we go back and try to pick up
some of those poor wretches ?" he cried impul-
"Back, me eye !" growled one of the seamen.
'What show would we have against that crowd,
I arsk yer? They'd swamp us in two jerks.
Pull, you bloody swab!" he added to his seat-
mate. "We don't want to waste no time gettin'
away from here."
Evidently Sherwood must have realized the
futility of argument, for he made no further
protest and silence fell upon the boat. Dick
192 The Emerald Buddha
rowed mechanically, his mind still numbed by
the suddenness and horror of the catastrophe.
Indeed, even yet, the whole thing seemed more
like an awful nightmare than something which
had really happened before his eyes. It was
incredible that everyone on board save them-
selves could have perished. Now and then as
the boat topped the crest of the waves, he
strained his eyes over that desolate waste of
water in search of other boats which might pos-
sibly have gotten away in time. But the height
of the sea and the uncertain light made it dif-
ficult to distinguish anything more than a hun-
dred yards or so away.
Presently the boy learned from the broken
talk of those about him that the disaster had
been caused by a collision with the floating hull
of a good-sized steamer. All her upper works
were gone and she lay so low in the water that
the warning cry of the lookout and the terrific
impact of collision came almost simultaneously.
Two of the men, Soames and Clancy, had the
good fortune to be on deck and managed to
Skeleton Island 193
lower the quarter-boat just ahead of that fren-
zied rush of terrified hiunanity. They let her
drift back alongside the deserted stern, where
they were joined by Daggett, and the stoker,
Midkiff • It was the steward's hurried dash be-
low for provisions which alone saved Sherwood
and Warrender from the fate which seemed to
have overtaken the rest of the passengers and
crew. . . . Dick wondered with an unpleasant
sinking of his heart, whether they had really es-
caped that fate or merely delayed it a little.
Toward dawn it was possible to step the
small mast and hoist a lugsail, and Dick
shipped his oar with a feeling of relief. His
muscles were sore from the unaccustomed ex-
ercise and his palms beginning to blister.
Also he was conscious of a growing hunger
which almost equalled his consuming thirst,
and he watched with the greatest interest the
opening of a bag of ship's biscuit and the
broaching of the water beaker.
While this was being done the sun rose blind-
ingly above the sea line, turning the vast
194 The Emerald Buddha
surface of heaving water into a sheet of molten
metal. It sucked up the faint mist and climb-
ing swiftly into the dazzling sky, blazed down
upon the little boat, the only moving thing in all
that infinite expanse of ocean.
The men calculated that with economy their
provisions might last a week, but there was only
water enough for three or four days. The
situation, indeed, could not well be more ser-
ious, and while they consumed their slender
meal a serious discussion arose as to the proper
course to take.
Dick took no part in this. For a time he lis-
tened interestedly, but with a growing dislike
for Midkiff who was evidently one of those
blustering, loudmouthed persons who stub-
bornly refuse to consider any opinion save their
own. No one disputed the fact that the Ocean
Queen had been driven far out of her course by
the storm. But Midkiff obstinately contended
that this deflection had been due south and that
their best chance of making land would be to
Skeleton Island 195
head eastward toward the Philippines. Sher-
wood, backed by what he had learned from
Captain Briggs shortly after midnight, knew
that the storm had carried them much more to
the east than south, and held that by shaping
their course southward they would stand a fair
chance of striking some of the small islands oflF
the coast of Luzon. But he might as well have
tried to move a stone image as to influence Mid-
kiff, and the discussion was rapidly assuming an
acrimonious tone when Dick, who was standing
up, supporting himself by the mast, gave a sud-
den, excited shout.
"There's a ship!" he cried, pointing to the
eastward. "I can see her sail."
Instantly the wrangling ceased and several
of the men leaped up and stared eagerly in that
direction. Sherwood, with one hand on War-
render's shoulder, studied the sea line long and
''By Jove !" he exclaimed at length. "I be-
lieve it's land."
196 The Emerald Buddha
"Guflf!" growled Midkiff, blinking in the
glare. "Tell that to yer grandmother. It's
nuthin' but clouds."
Nevertheless, though grudgingly, he yielded
to the clamor of the others and the boat was
headed for the distant speck. At first this was
very faint and indistinct, and might have been
almost anything. But presently, when it failed
to move, the theory of ship or cloud was aban-
doned, and at length it resdved itself unmis-
takably into a mass of tall palms.
The shimmer of the sea gave them the curi-
ous appearance of floating in the air. But as
the boat drew slowly nearer, one detail after
another emerged from the blinding glare, until
at last the whole flat surface of a coral atoll of
considerable size lay before them.
It was a wide, irregular, roughly circular
ring enclosing a lagoon a mile or more in di-
ameter. Here and there were open spaces, but
for the most part a dense forest growth
crowded its surface. Palms, breadfruit, cane
Skeleton Island 197
and a dozen other tropical varieties clustered
together above impenetrable thickets of under-
growth. Between these and the placid blue la-
goon glistened a stretch of hardpacked, sandy
beach, and the whole picture was one of such
perfect snugness and security that spontaneous
cries of delight burst from the refugees.
There was a break in the reef about fifty feet
wide toward which Clancy, who was at the
tiller, steered without question. Outside, the
surf boomed steadily against the coral bul-
warks, but the lagoon was quiet as a mill pond,
and as the boat slid through the opening and
was headed for the nearest shore, Sherwood
laughed aloud from sheer relief.
"Pretty soft, fellows!" he exclaimed. "I
never thought we'd strike anything like this.
I don't believe—"
He paused, staring ahead intently. They
were within twenty yards or so of shore, and
Soames and Daggett were unstepping the mast,
which for a moment or two obscured Kent's vi-
198 The Emerald Buddha
sion. When this had been stowed away, how-
ever, he resumed his inspection eagerly, and
swiftly came to a definite decision.
Back of the sweep of white sand the trees
clustered thickly, save at one spot a little to
the left of where they were heading, where
they were broken by an artificial looking
It was evidently not a recent one. No raw
stumps showed amongst the greenery, and a
luxuriant tangle of vines and undergrowth cov-
ered the entire surface. But Sherwood felt
sure it had been made by man, and the glimpse
of a low, long roof line presently confirmed his
For a few moments the boat was halted while
its occupants searched the clearing and the
surrounding forest with keen, apprehensive
glances. But the place was so clearly deserted
that they presently took heart and, pulling for
the shore, leaped out and dragged the boat well
up on the beach.
"That's no native hut," declared Sherwood
Skeleton Island 199
suddenly, as they paused through the tangle
that blocked their way.
"Huh !" grunted Midkiff . "You know a lot,
don't you ? Next thing you'll be tellin' us it's
some bloody English lord's country place."
Kent's only response was an impatient shrug
and a slight curling of his lips. He was grow-
ing distinctly weary of Midkiff's surliness, but
just now was far too interested in what lay
ahead of them to enter into any altercation.
Thrusting aside the last obstruction, he found
himself in front of a long, low, log hut with a
sloping, palm-thatched roof, much rotted and
decayed, the side nearest him pierced by two
windows and a door.
The windows were tightly shuttered, but the
door stood partly open. Just what made him
hesitate to enter, Sherwood could not tell. But
pause he did, and the others, clustering about
him, seemed to feel the same subtle repellence.
For a long moment they halted there, a silent,
huddled group, staring intently at the shadowy
space between the door and the rough-hewn
200 The Emerald Buddha
jamb. Then Sherwood^ with a sudden, impa-
tient movement, stepped briskly forward and
pushed across the threshold.
Reluctantly the door moved back with a
shriek of rusty hinges that was drowned by
Sherwood's startled exclamation.
Dick was the first to follow him, and as he
peered around his friend's shoulder, his eyes
widened with surprise and horror.
The room, a fairly large one, was in the
greatest possible disorder. The few pieces of
roughly made furniture lay overturned. The
floor was covered by an extraordinary medley
of crumpled papers, torn magazines, mouldy
wearing apparel, broken dishes and rusty tin-
ware, over which a heavy coating of fine, im-
palpable dust had settled.
All this Dick Warrender perceived in-
tuitively, for his gaze was riveted upon the
gruesome spectacle just opposite the door.
Against the further wall stood a large roughly-
Skeleton Island 201
made arm chair, lying in which, in a queer, hud-
dled posture, the skull sagging sidewise against
one gleaming shoulder blade, were the bleached
white bones of a human skeleton !
In the brief, tense pause that followed, Dick
felt Daggett's breath hot against his neck and
heard muttered exclamations from Soames and
Clancy. Then Midkiff 's surly voice broke the
"What you waitin' for, anyhow?" he
growled. "Afraid of that old bag o' bones ?'*
But the boy noticed that in spite of his bra-
vado, the hulking stoket was the last to enter
the gloomy, disordered room, and during the
examination which followed he rather point-
edly refrained from venturing near the grue-
some object huddled in the depths of the big
The sinister character of their discovery be-
came only too quickly evident. Coils of stout
rope, dangling loosely enough now, showed that'
Sinister Relics 203
the victim had been tied firmly into the chair,
•while a crushing fracture of the skull bore evi-
dence to the manner of his death. The rotting
remnants of thin cotton pajamas which hung in
strips about the gruesome figure, yielded no clue
to the unknown's identity ; but the extreme dis-
order of the room more than hinted at a motive
for the crime.
''Robbery, I should say," remarked Sher-
wood, when they had looked about a little and
peeped into a small, cluttered bedroom adjoin-
ing. "Whatever they were after was hidden
mighty* well, too, from the way everything is
torn to bits. Where does that door go to, Dag-
He pointed to a small, closed door in a dark-
ish corner opposite the entrance to the bedroom
and as the steward turned to open it the others
watched him interestedly.
"But — ^those ropes?" questioned Dick, eyeing
the skeleton with mingled curiosity and repug-
nance. "Db you suppose he — ^he knew, and
204 The Emerald Buddha
"It seems likely/' nodded Sherwood. "Of
course it's all only guesswork, but I can't think
of any other reason for his being tied up and
then killed I wonder what they were after ?"
"Something pretty nice, you can bet," ob-
served Soames. "Murder ain't usually done
for trifles. If this wasn't a coral reef, I'd say
he might have struck gold, an' maybe some oth-
What is it, Daggett?" interrupted Kent, as
the steward, having forced open the door,
paused on the threshold with a disgusted snort.
Daggett shrugged his shoulders. "Nothing
but shells," he sniffed. "The whole blooming
shed is full of oyster shells."
For a moment there was an odd silence,
fraught, even to Warrender's inexperienced
mind, with a curious sort of tension. It was
broken by Midkiff, who moved swiftly forward.
"Shells!" he repeated hoarsely, pushing
roughly past Daggett. "Lemme have a look at
He bent over, fumbling for a moment in the
Sinister Relics 205
darkness. When he straightened up and
turned toward the light, his face was flushed,
and there was a queer gleam in the eyes fixed
so eagerly on the shells clutched in both
"Pearl sheU!" he nmttered excitedly. "By
He looked up suddenly to meet Sherwood's
curious, searching glance, and a sullen scowl
furrowed his low forehead.
I — ^I guess they ain't, either," he mumbled
After all, they ain't nothin' but common — oys-
'"You know the/re not." Without hesitat-
tion Sherwood reached out and plucked one of
the shells from his hands. "They're pearl
shell," he added quietly. "Anybody who's ever
seen them would know that. They Icxk to me
like the finest quality, too."
Midkiff glared at him venomously out of
narrowed, angry eyes. Clancy's jaw sagged,
and Soames' face lit up with sudden excite-
2o6 The Emerald Buddha
''You mean they had pearls in 'em?" he de-
"Not necessarily, but they're the sort of oys-
ter that produces pearls. Mother-of-pearl is
made from the shells. There must have been
a fishery out there in the lagoon ; it's an ideal
place for it That would account for this
shack, and — "
"But Where's the pearls gone?" broke in
SoameSy his eyes full of a sudden, overwhelm-
ing greed "With all them shells they must
have got some pearls."
Kent shrugged his shoulders. "I dare say
they did," he answered quietly. He gave a sig-
nificant glance around the disordered room.
"Pearls would certainly account for — ^this."
"You mean they're — ^they're gone !"
Sherwood could not help smiling at the ex-
pression of indignant disappointment in the fel-
low's face. One might have thought him sud-
denly and unjustly deprived of a treasure right-
"You've got me," he answered. "I'm no
._ to taK » VmxK »« ^^^^
'off hwu\ J •»»»»«»«»'<"•*'
^ or whether «li«V I'lnn.P^' ;'
«rf, if tf«y didn't. Uhm.'« |ii"l;" [^^''
ofoarsuccecdhmwIl'M^lll", M"^ '
riK Mank alencc th«l I'iIImW"! *' > ' ' '
i' your imt't'in, hIi, I»> ) '' '
***Lrwoodnoa.M. "A »>m>l»V>»»>^ ^"^^^ ^^^^^^
trying to locat..o.n.llnu^il.v»vM^>|V»^;"^^;;;;
up the shack »o It'll ha lU to -Iv^^^P »»»' »^^*»^»'^
2o8 The Emerald Buddha
that we've got to hunt up food and water, col-
lect fire wood, and do a lot of things that are
more important just now than fishing up pearl
oysters which can't possibly get away."
Midkiff objected sullenly, apparently out of
sheer cussedness, but the others seemed to re-
alize the commonsense of Kent's suggestion,
and under his directions the cleaning of the
shack went forward briskly.
First of all the gruesome remains of the un-
known man were carried out on a piece of
mouldy cloth and buried decently in the sand.
Then all the windows were thrown open and
the contents of the hut taken outside where the
rubbish was burned and anything which might
be of the least possible use put aside for airing
or later cleaning.
A number of tools and implements turned up,
amongst them a brush hook which was a great
help in clearing away the undergrowth around
the shack. During this process the source of a
spring was uncovered to one side of the build-
ing, and when they stopped for a late dinner of
Sinister Relics 209
tinned meat and biscuit, the place had been
"All we need now is food," remarked Sher-
wood when they had finished. "There must be
plenty of fish in the lagoon, and from right here
I can see more cocoanuts than we could eat in
a year. I move we divide up in pairs this after-
noon and do a little exploring. Some of us can
take the boat and that tackle we found in the
hut and go out on the lagoon, while the others
scout through the woods and see what can be
turned up in the way of fruit."
Midkiflf hastily announced his determination
to do the fishing and picked Clancy to go with
him. Soames and Daggett went off to explore
back of the hut, leaving Sherwood and Dick to
take the woods to the eastward.
The latter were scarcely out of earshot, when
Warrender caught his friend by one arm.
"Say, Kent," he burst out in a low, anxious
tone. "Those papers about the — ^the emerald.
You — saved them, didn't you?"
Sherwood laughed. "I certainly did. That
210 The Emerald Buddha
was the first thing I thought of when the crash
came this morning. They're safe in my inside
pocket. Have you been worrying?"
"You bet I have!'* returned the boy with a
deep sigh of relief. "In the excitement of get-
ting away and everything, I clean forgot the
things until you began to talk about pearls.
Ever since then Fve been fretting like the dick-
ens and trying to get a chance to talk to you
alone. Well, I'm mighty glad that's all right,
though it looks as if our chances of ever seeing
Borneo were rather slim."
Sherwood shrugged his shoulders. "You
can't ever tell what will happen," he said ab-
sently. "Come ahead into the woods. I've
got something interesting to show you."
Kent said nothing more until they were well
within the shelter of the trees. Then, with a
searching glance around, he drew from his
pocket a small, paper-covered note book, the
outside much stained and worn.
''Found it in that rubbish this morning," he
explained briefly, flicking over the pages. "I
only got a glimpse, but it looked like — "
His voice trailed away into silence and a fur-
row dodged into his smooth forehead as his
eyes travelled swiftly down the closely written
pages. Suddenly he looked up at the boy, his
expression an odd mingling of perplexity and
"It's a record of the pearl fishery," he said in
a low tone. "Loolf here."
Dick took the book eagerly and stared at the
212 The Emerald Buddha
open page. The faded writing was stiff and
labored, though legible enough — ^the careful
writing of a man of action unused to the pen.
Opposite certain dates were brief entries of
which the boy could make nothing.
"Nov. 17th," he read. "Three white— 17,
21, 26 grs. Nov. 20th, one white — ^46 grs.
Dec. 2nd. Four white — 11, 19, 22, 34 grs.
One Pink— 188 grs/'
The latter was deeply underscored. Dick
glanced up questioningly.
Don't you understand?" Sherwood asked.
It's the number of pearls found on those dates
with their weights. Imagine a pink pearl of
188 grains! Why, it would be worth — ^well, I
don't know how many thousand dollars." He
took the book and glanced through it again.
"And there are four or five pages of entries.
At that rate they must have taken a fortune out
of the lagoon."
"But what happened to them all? Who
were the people who found them, and how — '*
"By Jove!" broke in Sherwood excitedly.
Trouble Brewing 213
He was staring at a page in the front of the
book which had escaped his notice. "Hanged
if I don't believe I've got a clue. Listen to
this. It's a rough statement of partnership in
pearl fishing signed by four men. Captain Jed
Quinlan has a half interest by virtue of dis-
:overer. Joe Dobbs, H. Woldring and Thomas
Mogridge divide the other half equally. It's
dollars to doughnuts, Kid, that poor cuss we
found back there was Quinlan."
"You mean the others wanted more than
their share, and — "
"Exactly. If they were an)rthing like the
average derelict you find beach-combing around
the South Seas, that's precisely what they
would want, and they'd not be troubled
by any scruples as to how they got it. Do you
suppose that bruiser, Midkiflf, for instance,
would hesitate to knock either of us on the head
for the value of even one of the pearls noted
down in this book? Of course not! That's
why I kept the thing hidden. The whole bunch
is worked up enough now. They'd go entirely
214 The Emerald Buddha
off their heads if they had any idea of the real
value of the stuff they've missed,"
"You think those three got away with the
pearls, then ? " asked Dick.
"Doesn't it seem likely? If they hadn't,
they'd be here yet. What surprises me is their
abandoning the fishery. They might easily
have hidden all evidence of the crime and laid
the captain's death to natural causes if any
question ever arose. But I suppose they got
cold feet and beat it."
Warrender reached out absently and plucked
a scarlet hibiscus blossom from a mass of them
which grew beside him. There was a shivery
allurement in the vision Sherwood had conjured
up of lawlessness and sudden death — and
"What — what are you going to do?" he
"Nothing, just now," answered Kent. "I
may be a fool to pass up such a chance as this
lagoon might prove to be, but excuse me from
Trouble Brewing 215
going into partnership with a bunch like Mid-
kiff and those other two. Daggett isn't so bad,
though there's no telling what a man will do
when he's gripped by the lust for treasure.
Believe me, I don't hanker after Captain Quin-
lan's fate. Besides, we've got something else
on our hands that's a lot more interesting than
fishing up pearl oysters, fascinating as that
may be. The best plan will be to hide this
book and say nothing about it to anyone. I
shouldn't be at all surprised, by the way, if Mid-
kiff and Clancy were searching the lagoon for
oyster beds this very minute."
His guess proved to have hit the mark ac-
curately. After burying the note book at the
base of a towering palm, the two pushed on
through the woods. In the short space of an
hour they located a dozen different varieties of
tropical fruit, and saw a number of birds,
chiefly big white cockatoos, flitting through the
tree tops. Returning, loaded down with or-
anges and paw-paws, they found Soames and
2i6 The Emerald Buddha
Daggett on the beach, and observed the boat
moving slowly about the upper end of the la-
Another hour passed before this headed back
to the camp, and the half-dozen fish brought in
by Midkiff and Clancy, though ample for sup-
per, scarcely accounted for the prolonged de-
lay. Neither of the men made any explana-
tion, but Sherwood noticed a certain restless
preoccupation about them which seemed sig-
nificant. Immediately after supper they went
off toward the shed containing the oyster shell,
calling Soames to join them.
What they found there was not apparent un-
til next morning. They had one of the lan-
terns which, with a nearly full can of oil, had
been part of the salvage of the hut, and for over
two hours its yellow light glowed steadily
through the open door of the shed. It was
still burning when the other three turned in.
In spite of a certain vague uneasiness, Sher-
wood slept like a log that night. He was the
first to awake, and having aroused Dick, they
Trouble Brewing 217
stripped and went down to take a plunge into
the crystal waters of the lagoon. On the way
back they paused besides the boat.
"I thought so/' commented Sherwood, glanc-
ing inside it. "They've found a couple of
drags, and Til bet they mean to go after oysters
as soon as they've finished breakfast."
He said nothing of the discovery, but when
the meal was over and the three men prepared
to launch the boat, he remarked casually that
while they were gone, Daggett, Dick and him-
self might better occupy themselves in gather-
ing dead wood and brush for a signal fire. In-
stantly Midkiff straightened up and glared at
"What d'you want that for ? " he growled.
"Why, to light in case we see a passing ship,"
returned Sherwood. "Naturally we don't want
to miss a chance of being taken off."
"We don't, eh ? " The fellow's eyes flashed
angrily. "Lemme tell you somethin'. You've
been shootin' off a lot of hot air around here,
but from now on I'm boss — see?" With a
2i8 The Emerald Buddha
swift motion he jerked from his pocket a dingy
but serviceable revolver of large calibre and
held it in one hand. "What I say goes ; and I
ain't goin' to have no fire built to bring folks
pokin' around these diggings. You get me?''
White with rage, Sherwood faced him for
an instant in furious silence. Then he got a
grip on himself and turned away with a care-
"Oh, very well," he commented. "If that's
the way you feel about it, there's nothing more
to be said, I suppose."
"It is the way I feel, an' so does the rest of
us," snarled Midkiff. "Joe Daggett, you stick
around here while we're gone, an' if these guys
start anything, you wave a bit of canvas or
somethin', an' we'll come back an' settle 'em
He pocketed the revolver, shoved off the boat
with a heave of his mighty shoulder and stepped
in, Soames and Clancy following him. Sher-
wood stood motionless until they were a hun-
Trouble Brewing 219
dred yards or so distant; then he turned to
"How does he get that way?" he snapped
Daggett looked at him appealingly with eyes
that were wide and scared. "I — I 'ope you're
not blaming me, sir?" he quavered. "I don't
know what's got into him. He always was a
bit rough, but since last night he's had a way
about him that makes me fair nervous."
For a moment or so Kent stood silent, strug-
gling to overcome his anger. Then his face
cleared a little and he shrugged his shoulders.
"He's got the pearl fever," he said briefly.
"No telling what that will do to a man."
The steward gasped. "My gracious, sir!
You don't mean as 'ow they've gone an' found
"They've found the oyster beds those came
from, and it's pretty evident they mean to keep
their discovery to themselves. I wish I knew
where he got that gun."
220 The Emerald Buddha
It was in the shack, sir/' explained Daggett.
I seen him pick it up out of a corner, an' some
cartridges, too. He must have spent a pretty
time cleanin' the rust off."
Sherwood bit his lips in annoyance. Mid-
kiff had certainly put one over on him there,
perhaps at that very moment, too, when he
himself was engaged in secreting the notebook.
But there was no use wasting time in vain re-
grets. The thing to do was to plan out some
counterstroke, and while they pottered about
in the neighborhood of the shack that morning,
Kent's mind was busy.
Midkiff and the others failed to return at
noon, and after dinner the two escaped from
Daggett on the plea of gathering fruit for sup-
per, and went off together into the woods.
"On an island there are quite a number of
places to build a signal fire," remarked Sher-
wood as they pushed through the undergrowth.
"I'd rather have had it near the hut, but any
other place will do nearly as well."
Crossing directly to the other side of the reef.
Trouble Brewing 221
which at this point was about a quarter of a
mile wide, they spent a couple of hours gather-
ing dead wood and stacking it in a great pile
at a spot where it would be visible from the
sea, but hidden by undergrowth from anyone
passing along the beach. This done, they
strolled further along the hard, sandy stretch,
discussing the situation which had developed.
"There's no dodging the fact that it's pretty
serious," said Sherwood. "Midkiff isn't the
sort to stop at an)rthing, and at any time he's
quite likely to decide that even our passive
presence on the island is undesirable. Luck-
ily they're none of them the type to successfully
hide what's on their minds, and I think by close
watching we can tell whether or not they're
planning anything dirty. But it means keeping
our eyes open every minute. What the deuce
is that in there ? It looks like a pond."
They were walking well up on the beach and
as he spoke Sherwood turned sharply to the
left and, parting the bushes revealed a tiny
pool scarcely a dozen yards across. It must
222 Tlie Emerald Buddha
have been fed by some hidden spring, for not a
breath disturbed its glassy surface nor stirred
the foliage of the dense, tropical growth which
hung over it on every side, turning it into a
The shadows, the stillness, the dank, acrid
odor of rotting vegetation, combined to make
a dreary, depressing atmosphere that was al-
most sinister. To Warrender it seemed an
ideal lair for snakes or almost any sort of
noisome reptile, and his eyes were roving ner-
vously about when of a sudden he caught his
breath and gave a sharp, involuntary cry.
At his feet, half hidden by vines and creep-
ing vegetation, the body of a man sprawled,
face downward !
THE POISONED PEARLS
Slowly the moments ticked away as the two
stood motionless, staring down with startled,
questioning eyes. Presently Sherwood took a
step or two forward and bending over, tore
away a portion of the clustering growth. As
he did so Dick shivered and bit his lips, for
the movement revealed the glimmer of a
bleached skull and uncovered a bony hand
thrust forward from the sleeve of a faded
"Great Scott!" gasped Kent. "Another
Reluctantly, he thrust out one foot and
turned the body over. There was an unpleas-
ant rattle of dry bones as the thing collapsed
horribly into a shapeless heap. Sherwood's
face crinkled with disgust, and he was turning
224 The Emerald Buddha
hastily away when he caught sight of a small,
flat object lying on the ground.
"Let's get out of this," he said briefly, pick-
ing it up.
Out on the beach, with the pungent salt air
fresh in their nostrils and the brilliant sunshine
gleaming from sea and sand, they quickly re-
covered their composure.
"What on earth — " began Dick.
"Don't ask me/' interrupted Sherwood, turn-
ing the small, square object over in his hands.
"It's got my goat. Pretty soon we'll be afraid
to stir for fear or stepping on bones or some
What he had found proved to be a wallet
roughly made of tough, heavy leather com-
pletely hardened by exposure. Kent managed
to loosen the flap, however, and found it empty
save for a folded sheet of paper closely covered
with faded writing. Too impatient to wait,
Dick peered around his cousin's shoulder and
together they deciphered the surprising docu-
The Poisoned Pearls 225
The date it bore was nearly nine years ear-
lier; the handwriting was unmistakably that
of the unknown Captain Quinlan.
"There's deviltry afoot, Meadows," it be-
gan abruptly. "The men have been up to
some mischief since you left in the bark for
Manila. It's my opinion the dirty scoundrels
are not content with a fair division of the
pearls, but want them all, and Fm worried sick.
I'm taking every care, but with three against
one there's bound to be a slip-up some time or
other. Yesterday I managed to slip away from
them at the fishery and took the box and hid it.
You remember that rummy black pool ? About
a hundred yards due east and not more than a
dozen paces from the outer beach, is a group of
three big Sago palms growing in a sort of tri-
angle. The box is buried in the middle and
I'm going to hide this paper in a place known
only to us two. According to our agreement
half of my share belongs to you. If those dev-
ils should get the best of me, you're to have the
226 The Emerald Buddha
rest, and take their's, too, for they'll have for-
feited every right to them. But note this spe-
cial, mate. When you come to dig up the box
remember well what we learned in the Dyak
village in Borneo three years back. There's
just a chance they may find this paper, but if
they do you'll understand when I say they'll
wish to God they'd never seen those pearls if
they so much as lay a finger on one of them.
Sherwood lowered the paper and the two
stared at one another.
"What the dickens do you suppose that
means ? " pondered Warrender. "It sounds —
"It does," promptly agreed Sherwood.
"It's like some kind of a hidden threat. This
Meadows must have been another partner in
the business whose job may have been to bring
supplies and all that from the Philippines."
"i wonder if that — was he back there ? "
For a moment or two Kent did not answer.
The Poisoned Pearls 227
Then, with an impatient frown, he thrust the
paper into his pocket and wheeled around.
"It might have been," he said briefly. "I
tell you one thing, Dick ; Fm dead sick of won-
dering and guessing and feeling about in the
dark for explanations. There's just one solid
fact in all this mystery that we can grab hold
of. The place where he hid those pearls isn't
more than five minutes' walk from here, and Vm
mighty curious to take a look at it. If they're
gone, as I suppose they must be, nothing else
really matters, does it ?"
Without further delay they returned to the
pool and shaping their course with a tiny com-
pass Sherwood carried on his watch strap,
pushed eastward through the woods, counting
their paces. But even that was scarcely neces-
sary. They had covered little more than two-
thirds the distance when they glimpsed the
thick trunks of the three sago palms growing
close together, and with a shout of satisfaction,
Kent broke into a run. A moment later they
reached their goal and halted abruptly.
228 The Emerald Buddha
They were prepared for almost anything
save what they found. Between the three
palms was a rough hollow a couple of feet deep
and double that across. Time had obliterated
all signs of digging, but a rusted spade leaned
against one of the trees, while on the edge of
the hollow rested a heavy, iron-bound box some
fourteen inches square. It was shut, and be-
side it, one bony arm stretched out as if to lift
the cover, lay a skeleton partly covered with
ragged remnants of rotting clothing. Not far
away, huddled against a tree trunk in a strange,
distorted posture, was another.
Moment after moment passed and the silence
brooding over that shadowy glade remained un-
broken. A cold chill crept along Dick's spine
as he stared first at the mouldering bodies and
then at that iron-bound box. Were the pearls
still there? He longed to rush forward and
fling back the lid, but somehow he dared not.
He was afraid, for into his mind had come the
fantastic notion that death — ^the sudden mys-
terious death which had stricken these two and
The Poisoned Pearls 229
perhaps that other by the black pool yonder —
lurked under the closed cover. He tried to
speak, to ask a question, but his tongue seemed
glued to the roof of his mouth and the words
refused to come.
Then all at once the spell was broken. A
great, white cockatoo flew over them, screaming
raucously. An instant later another sound
came from the direction of the nearby beach —
a guarded, panting, insistent voice calling end-
"Mr. Sherwood! Mr. Sherwood! Mr.
Kent gave a start and turned his head. "It's
Daggett ! " he exclaimed. "He sounds —
Something must be the matter. Come ahead."
As they burst out onto the beach they saw the
steward running toward them across the sand.
He was bareheaded, thin hair plastered down
against his forehead in moist, matted tangles.
His face was pale, and twisted with fear and
anguish. Catching sight of them, a sobbing
gasp of relief burst from his thin lips.
230 The Emerald Buddha
"Thank 'eaven Pve found you, sir!" he
panted, his weak mouth working. "The men's
gone mad, I think. They're back this half
hour. I was asleep in the shade back of the
house and heard them planning to — ^to kill us
all. They thought as we had gone off together,
sir, and plotted to get us as we come back. . . .
*And Daggett, too,' says Soames. 'Yes,' says
Midkiff, 'better make a clean job of it.' It
seems they've found pearls an' don't want to
share 'em. . . . An' after all I've done for
them with victuals and everything! It's ter-
rible, sir ! " He wrung his hands distractedly.
"I slipped away and ran through the woods to
the beach where I found your tracks. What-
ever will we do? They've got the gun, and
we've nothing. They'll find us sooner or later,
and — " He darted a frightened glance over
one shoulder and his voice rose in a shrill
stifled shriek. "Oh, my Lord, sir! There
they come ! "
But Sherwood had already spied them, just
emerging from the trees a quarter of a mile be-
The Poisoned Pearls 231
yond Without an instant's hesitation he
shoved Warrender back into the bushes and
grasping the panic-stricken steward by one arm,
dragged him under cover. But swift as his
action was it proved of no avail. A distant,
ringing shout heralded their discovery, and
Sherwood's lips tightened at the realization that
the chase had begun.
The sight pf those mouldering bodies under
the palms wrung from Daggett a shrill squeal
of fright, but did not halt his flying feet.
Darting past the hollow, Dick cast behind him
a fleeting glance of longing and regret. If
only there had been time to snatch up the box
and carry it along ! But he knew there wasn't,
and a moment later the heavy, tropic growth
dosed behind him, blotting out the glade com-
A little further on Sherwood, realizing that
their noisy progress must inevitably betray
them, slowed down and proceeded in cautious
silence. Presently he stopped altogether and
turning his head, stood listening. A sudden
232 The Emerald Buddha
concerted shout came clearly to their ears fol-
lowed by a brief silence and then another,
"The pearls were there," thought Dick bit-
terly. "They Ve found them."
Two minutes passed — ^three — ^five, and the
stillness remained unbroken. Suddenly Sher-
"I can't stand not knowing," he whispered.
"If the pearls are in that box they won't give
us another thought. If not, they'd have come
on long ago. I'm going to slip back and take
a look. You two wait here."
Quietly, stealthily, he made his way slowly
back along their trail. Nearing the three sago
t)alms, he was aware of an intermitten mumble
of conversation punctuated by occasional
shriller exclamations of delight and greed.
"Look a' that pink 'un ! " he finally heard
Midkiff cry. "Ain't that a beauty? That's
goin' to be part of my share, all right."
"Like fun it will ! " rasped Clancy. "Don't
you think you're going to pick out all the good
The Poisoned Pearls 233
ones. Hang it ! I Ve run another thorn in my
Sherwood thrilled with a sudden, desperate
hope. He had heard tales of lawless men
fighting over their spoils and even killing one
another off. Softly he stole nearer and at
last ventured to part a final curtain of flower-
covered vines and peered out into the glade.
The box was open and as he looked Midkiff,
kneeling beside it, lifted up both hairy hands
and through his fingers there dripped a stream
of pearly drops, so full of softly sheening love-
liness that the watcher fairly caught his breath
"Not take my pick, eh ? " growled the fellow
hoarsely. "Who's to stop me, Clancy ? I arsk
you that? Who's to — Curse it all! there's
another of them blarsted thorns. The place is
full of 'em."
There was no answer, and as Midkiff
plucked pettishly at one thick thiunb, Sher-
wood's curious glance sought the other two men
who were so strangely silent. They crouched
234 The Emerald Buddha
on the further side of the box of pearls.
Soames' back was toward him, but he could see
Clancy's face distinctly. It was drawn, sweat-
dabbled and deathly pale, and there was a look
of anguish in the staring eyes that sent a thrill
of horror through the watcher.
Suddenly, with a strangled, inartictilate cry,
the fellow lifted both hands stiffly and tore at
the open collar of his shirt. At almost the
same instant Soames groaned horribly and top-
pled forward, his arms falling across the top
of the iron-bound box. Midkiff sprang up with
"Get out of here, you scum ! " he snarled
thickly. "Don't you think you're going to get
away with — "
His voice died in a choking gurgle. For a
long moment he stood motionless, straddling the
box like some colossus made of stone.
His eyes, wide with fear and growing horror,
were fixed on Clancy, who had fallen back
against one of the palms and lay still, save for
a dreadful twitching of his body. They
The Poisoned Pearls 235
shifted for an instant to Soames, a silent,
crumpled heap, one swollen, purple hand rest-
ing on the corner of the casket. And then
slowly, almost reluctantly, he lifted one big
hand and stared vacantly at the ball of hiis
thumb. Suddenly his voice rang furiously
through the silent glade.
"No! No! Nor'
Flinging both arms above his head, he
stumbled out of the hollow, staggered blindly
forward a few paces, and then crashed face
downward into the undergrowth.
THE HALF-BREED, GARCIA
With an effort Sherwcx)d loosened his spas-
modic grip on the hanging vine and slowly-
moved away. ... A crushed, white, sweetly-
scented blossom fell unheeded from his cramped
fingers. ... He felt deathly sick, and his
whole body was bathed in a cold sweat.
Warrender and Daggett both cried out at the
sight of his white face, but he would say noth-
ing until they had pushed on through the woods
and gained the sunlit border of the lagoon.
And there he told them briefly what had passed.
"It must have been Dyak poison — ^the sort
they use in their blow-gun darts," he concluded.
"It acts instantly and there's no known cure.
That's what Quinlan meant in his letter, of
course. Both Midkiff and Clancy spoke of
thorns — Those slim ones on certain sorts of
The Half 'Breed, Garcia 237
cacti would scarcely be noticed. Quinlan must
have smeared the poison on a lot of them and
sifted them into the box along with the pearls."
He shuddered, and for a space no one spoke.
Daggett's face, though solemn, wore a furtive,
underlying expression of relief. Not having
been an eye-witness to the tragedy, Dick could
scarcely be expected to share his friend's hor-
ror, and was busily engaged in piecing things
"That one by the pool couldn't have been
Meadows after all," he said presently. "I sup-
pose he was one of the other three."
"He must have been," agreed Sherwood ab-
sently. "Though how he managed to get even
that far is more than I can understand. Those
fellows must have found the paper in spite of
Quinlan's precautions, and never given a
thought to the veiled warning at the end.
Meadows couldn't have returned to the island
at all. I dare say his ship was wrecked or
foundered at sea."
Dick sighed. "It seems a shame to leave
238 The Emerald Buddha
those pearls there," he said regretfully, "You
don't suppose there's any way — "
"Not all the pearls in the Pacific would tempt
me to go near that place again," Sherwood in-
terrupted forcibly. "By this time a lot of those
thorns must be scattered about outside the box
and you couldn't possibly see them. I'd as soon
walk into a den of cobras. If you'd only
seen — "
He broke off with a shiver, and turned west-
ward along the curving beach. "Let's go back
to camp and talk over what we mean to do,"
he added. "This place has got so on my nerves,
I'd almost be willing to put off in the boat and
take a chance of being picked up."
As a matter of fact this was what finally hap-
pened. Sherwood's repugnance for the island
swiftly communicated itself to the other two.
The lovely, smiling atoll became suddenly in-
vested with an atmosphere of horror. It was
as if the spirits of the evil dead had returned,
ghostlike, to haunt the innocent survivors.
The hut, crowded with unpleasant memories
The Half 'Breed, Garcia 239
and sinister suggestions, became untenable.
They moved to the open beach, camping under
strips of sail cloth, and never entered the woods
unless forced to in search of food. Indeed, the
place soon became so intolerable that they were
willing to risk almost an)rthing to escape from
it. So finally, the boat was carefully over-
hauled, provisioned and watered to the best
of their ability, and early one morning they
hoisted sail and tacked boldly out of the lagoon
into the open sea.
Fate sometimes plays strange pranks. Not
two hours later they sighted a small steamer,
signalled her and were presently overhauled
and taken on board. She proved to be a tramp
bound for Singapore, and her slovenly deck and
nondescript native crew were more welcome in
the eyes of the castaways than the most pala-
tial liner. The trip was calm and uneventful,
and when they landed a week later in that
populous Eastern city, its narrow streets
crowded with a noisy, cosmopolitan throng,
the weird horrors of those strange island hap-
240 The Emerald Buddha
penings faded swiftly like the fleeting figments
of some hateful dream.
Daggett philosophically set about looking for
another berth, and soon landed one on a vessel
bound for Madagascar and the Cape. It was
nearly two weeks after his sailing before Sher-
wood and Warrender left the harbor in the
trim, up-to-date steamer Panapa, plying be-
tween Singapore and Melbourne, via Borneo,
Celebes and New Guinea.
The delay enabled Kent to collect an excel-
lent and extensive equipment, for which, when
they landed at Labuan, he was more than
thankful, the stock offered by the settlement
stores proving limited and expensive. Taking
rooms at the only decent hotel, Sherwood set
about at once engaging guides, porters, cooks
and the remaining personnel necessary for the
Just as in China, to avoid awkward ques-
tions, he had posed as a buyer of antiques, so
now he gave out that they were American
sportsmen seeking some of the big game which
The Half 'Breed, Garcia 241
abounds in the interior of Borneo. He early
made the acquaintance of the British resident,
who advised him to look up one Manuel Garcia,
a Spanish half-breed, whose extensive ac-
quaintance amongst the natives enabled him to
pick the best for his frequent up-country expe-
When the fellow appeared at the hotel for
an interview, Kent did not altogether fancy
him. He was lean, lithe and very dark, with a
narrow face and brilliant eyes which seemed to
be never still. His manner was suave, with a
touch of smooth oiliness, but he certainly knew
his business. Within twenty-four hours he
had collected a complete complement of men,
and Sherwood, who had a distinct talent for
judging human nature, was forced to admit that
he had never seen a finer, or more competent
looking lot. He was particularly struck by the
head guide, Sarak, a Malay of the finest type,
whose splendid physical perfection was accom-
panied by a candid, straightforward expres-
sion which made Kent feel instinctively that he
242 The Emerald Buddha
could be trusted Indeed, he was afterward
wont to contend that it was Sarak who turned
the scale and decided him to engage the whole
party, Garcia included.
Another day was necessary for preparation,
but early the following morning they all em-
barked on a commodious lavmch chartered by
Sherwood, steamed across Brunei Bay, and en-
tered the mouth of the Limbang River.
Long before this, of course, the papers re-
lating to the whereabouts of the Emerald
Buddha had been carefully studied by both
Kent and his young cousin. The older one,
written in ancient characters and nearly fall-
ing to pieces with age, was quite undecipher-
able. But fortunately a later copy had been
made, which, together with the account of that
much more recent visit to the ruined city, gave
them a clear and definite idea of the early
stages of the journey.
After leaving the river, however, the direc-
tions would be much harder to follow. The
way led through a trackless jungle, across
The Half 'Breed, Garcia 243
a mountain spur of considerable height and
ended in a mountainous plateau nearly three
hundred miles from the coast. In a country
where a few years of riotous tropic growth fre-
quently wipes out all traces of an entire set-
tlement, Sherwood felt sure that many of the
landmarks referred to by the follower of
Vishnu, who. had travelled the route some
thirty years before, would have completely
"Luckily he used the compass to give general
directions," Kent remarked, as they sat discuss-
ing the matter during the leisurely progress of
the launch up river. "And once we get within
fifty miles or so of the place I can't believe but
what we'll pick up some information from the
natives. The very fact that they shun the
place shows that they must have a pretty good
idea where it is."
INTO THE JUNGLE
But though Kent's reasoning seemed good,
he had failed to take into account the strength
and subtilty of the Malay superstitions. As
a matter of fact the natives not only avoided the
ruined city as they would the plague, but be-
lieved that the mere mention of it in conversa-
tion would bring much evil fortune upon their
heads. They were so stubborn on this point,
indeed, that the whole expedition might have
failed save for the lucky chance whereby Sher-
wood, at the risk of his own life, saved Sarak
from a horrible death under the crushing feet
of a maddened bull elephant.
It was but one of the many exciting incidents
which crowded over six weeks of slow, toilsome
Into the Jungle 245
their directions broke down utterly and they
found themselves stranded without an idea of
which way to turn, Sarak was the one who
saved the expedition, at a c;ost to his own peace
of mind which none save those of his own race
This stroke of fortune came as a climax of
several days of black despair when the two
Americans had almost given up hope. Sarak
had been appealed to before without success;
so had every other man in the outfit. Even
Garcia was sounded, though Sherwood had not
intended to give him any hint as to the real ob-
ject of the expedition, and even then made no
mention of the emerald. But apparently not
one of them had ever heard of the ruined tem-
ple, much less knew anything of its location,
and when Dick Warrender heard the good news
it seemed too wonderful to be true.
It happened one day when the little camp lay
silent in the stifling embrace of noonday heat.
Searching for Sherwood, whom he had missed,
Dick came on him unexpectedly under the
246 The Emerald Buddha
shade of a giant teak a little way from camp in
close conversation with Sarak. His face was
all aglow with excitement, and as the boy ap-
peared around a mass of trailing vines, Kent
"The most corking news, old man ! '* he ex-
claimed joyfully as Dick came up. "Sarak
does know about the Buddha after all- He's
actually seen it ! "
"What ! " gasped Warrender. "You don't
mean it, really ? "
Sherwood nodded. "I had a sneaking idea
he knew something, and just now I went for
him again. Told him what we were up against
and that the whole business would be off unless
he could help us find the place. He's a dandy
fellow, all right. I could see he hated even
talking about it, but after a while he loosened
up and told me the whole story. You know
how the natives all feel about it. Sarak admits
he'd never in the world have dared to hunt up
the place deliberately. He stumbled on the
ruined shrine over a year ago when he was up
Into the Jungle 247
this way, and I guess he beat it as quickly as he
could. But he says the emerald is still there,
and the place isn't more than three or four days*
tramp from this very spot."
"Oh, boy ! " exclaimed Warrender jubilantly.
"And will he take us there? "
"I think sOj though he's just now been beg-
ging me not to go near it. Like all of them he
believes those ruins are haunted by evil spirits,
and he tells me he knows for a fact that anyone
so much as touching the Buddha will meet with
an instant and horrible death."
Dick glanced at the Malay squatting close by
and surprised on his usually impassive face a
strained and frightened look. And suddenly a
queer, tingling thrill shot through him and a
touch of red darkened his tanned face.
Familiar as he had been for so long a time
with the story of the Emerald Buddha, this was
the first moment that his imagination had been
able to picture it as a real and concrete thing.
His gaze left the Malay's face and swept over
the close-set, .serried ranks of teak and iron
248 The Emerald Buddha
wood and tapan, bound together by rattan and
other ropelike vines into a dense, impenetrable
screen which for weeks had kept them in a
perpetual twilight. A moment before this had
been merely a disagreeable obstacle to progress.
Now the boy quaintly likened it to a sort of
drop-curtain which would presently rise, reveal-
ing the long sought object of their quest.
"Did— did Sarak really see the emerald —
close ? " he asked breathlessly.
"Close enough. He says it's about as big as
a hen's tgg. I can't get him to describe the
Buddha, which they seem to look on as a sort
of presiding devil of the place, but — "
He broke off abruptly and turning his head
swiftly to one side, sat listening. All about
them pressed the. stifling noonday stillness of
the jungle. The gaudy parrots had ceased
their raucous Sittings in the tree-tops; the
chattering monkeys had departed. Every
member of the outfit, apparently, except them-
selves, lay asleep in the little camp beyond the
Into the Jungle 249
screen of trailing vines. Dick was not con-
scious of a sound, and yet an instant later
Sarak sprang up and glided noiselessly into a
thicket behind the teak tree, closely followed
by Sherwood. The latter reappeared a mo-
ment later and swiftly crossed the glade to-
ward the camp.
"What is it ? " whispered Dick.
Kent shook his head and motioned the boy to
follow. Together they pushed through the
vines and paused on the edge of the wide clear-
ing which had been hacked out of the jungle.
Two tents stood there and a number of flimsy
native huts thatched with palm leaves that
housed the natives. The only person in sight
was Garcia, clad in shirt and trousers of dirty
white, who was engaged in lighting a cigarette
with an ember from the fire smouldering in the
middle of the clearing. As he glanced up at
the cousins without altering his stooping posi-
tion, his expression struck Dick as oddly and
unpleasantly sinister. An instant later he
250 The Emerald Buddha
straightened and the impression was gone.
Yawning elaborately, he lounged toward them,
his white teeth showing in a smile.
"The senors do not take their siesta?" he
"As you see," returned Kent briefly. "And
The fellow shrugged. '*Oh, I have finish.
I jus' come forth from zee tent for to smoke."
Sherwood eyed him intently for a moment.
"That being the case, we may as well arrange
for a shift," he said quietly. "The hunting
around here hasn't been much good for the last
day or two, and I want to move on to-morrow.
You'd better get as much of the lu^age as pos-
sible packed up this afternoon so we can make
an early start."
There were no signs of surprise in Garcia's
smiling acquiescence. "It shall be done," he
stated smoothly. "An' where does the senor
t'ink of going?"
"I haven't decided yet," returned Kent
Into the Jungle 251
A few words more passed relative to the lug-
gage. Then Garcia returned to the smaller of
the two tents, "while the cousins strolled off in a
careless fashion through the jungle.
"Do you think he heard?" asked Dick in a
low tone, when they were out of earshot.
"Fm almost certain of it." Sherwood's tone
was vexed and his brow furrowed. "I hoped
we'd catch him, bijt he was too quick for us.
Certainly someone was hiding in that thicket
just behind us ; Sarak and I both saw the traces
at once. And if it wasn't Garcia, who was it ?"
*'I never could stand that fellow !" Dick said
emphatically. "He's much too smooth and oily
to suit me. If he knows what we're after,
what's to prevent his turning the whole bunch
of natives against us, and swiping the emerald
Dick stared. "I know he's to b^e depended
on, but could he do anything with the others?
Garcia hired them all, you know."
"I know, but Sarak happens to have more in-
252 The Emerald Buddha
fluence with the gang than even Garcia. It
seems he's the son of their old chief, thougfa I
didn't know it 'till we were having this heart to
heart talk just now, and I'd back him to block
any deviltry Garcia may try to put over with'
the men. All the same, I'd much rather he
hadn't got wise to this business. He's much
too handy with a kris to make him a pleasant
person to be up against."
Absently Dick's eyes followed the lazy flight
of a huge crimson butterfly which made a spot
of moving flame against the dark background
of the jungle.
"It's up to us to keep a pretty sharp watch
on the fellow, then," he remarked.
Sherwood smiled reassuringly. "That's the
idea," he nodded. "After all, we're three to
one, and that ought to be good enough odds for
They were up at dawn next morning, and
little more than an hour later the tents were
packed and a string of porters, shouldering lug-
gage and camp equipment, began their slow
progress through the jungle.
Four Malays under Sherwood's direction,
armed with axes and long, heavy-bladed knives,
went ahead to slash a way through the dense
thickets and entangling vines. Sarak was with
them, while Dick, keyed up and restless, moved
back and forth along the straggling line, some-
times chatting with his cousin, but more often
lingering near Garcia, who kept mostly with the
If the half-breed knew as much about their
plans as they suspected, he was an artist in de-
ception. Even Dick, watchful as he was, could
find nothing in his manner or conversation to
254 The Emerald Buddha
take hold of. He chatted casually and natur-
ally, yelled at the porters, joked, laughed and
even asked about their destination which, unless
he was very subtle, was a subject the ordinary
plotter would be much more likely to avoid.
"He's slick, all right," remarked the boy to
Sherwood, during one of the brief halts. "He
hasn't given himself away a particle."
"I didn't expect he would," shrugged Kent.
"He's not the sort you catch napping."
They camped that evening on the bank of a
small river, and during the night one of the
three was always on watch. But nothing un-
usual happened. Apparently Garcia did not
open an eye until morning. The second day
was a repetition of the first except that the half-
breed seemed to have rather more than usual
to say to the natives. Unfortunately Dick did
not understand the language. It might have
been merely idle chatter, but several times he
seemed to sense a note of seriousness in Gar-
cia's voice, and more than once during the lat-
ter part of the afternoon he caught a curious,
furtive expression in one or another of the Ma-
lays* faces which made him wonder. He did
not speak of it to Kent. It was all too indefi-
nite and tmcertain, and he had a dread of being
laughed at or of giving the impression that his
nerves were getting the best of him. Never-
theless, in spite of Garcia's suave blandness,
Dick had a vague, uncomfortable feeling that
something he could not understand was going
on beneath the surface.
Late the following afternoon things came
suddenly to a head. They had left the low-
lands and begun to ascend a gentle grade which
seemed to be the lower slope of a mountain
range. From the very start Dick noticed that
the men seemed curiously reluctant to proceed.
As the day advanced they lagged perceptibly,
and though Garcia stormed up and down the
line urging them on, he had little success.
Presently Sarak came back to try his influence,
but his words were apparently not much more
effective. He had barely returned to the head
of the line when Garcia hurried up.
256 The Emerald Buddha
"The men — ^they no go on/' he stated in his
Sherwood looked at him keenly. "Won't go
on ?" he repeated. "Why not ?"
"They say zee place we go to is — ^how you say
it ? — it is haunt. The evil spirits life zare."
Kent's eyes narrowed. "How do they know
where we're going?" he asked sharply.
Garcia shrugged his shoulders. "Zee moun-
tain yonder — they say he full of spirits zat eat
up brown man. They go any place, Meester
Sherwood, say 'cept zat. For me, I care
not'ing, but zee men, they 'f raid."
For a. moment Kent stood frowning. Then
his shoulders squared. "Very well," he said
curtly. "We'll make camp here. I suppose
they're not afraid to do that ?"
"They no like, p'raps," shrugged the half-
breed, "but mus' do. I go to tell."
Sherwood's eyes followed him for a moment
or two. Then a few rapid words sent the four
Malays back to join the others. When these
were out of hearing he glanced significantly at
Sarak, who stood quietly beside him.
'^Some of his dirty work/' he commented
The Malay nodded. "I t'ink so. Not many
know jus' where this place ees. He tell them
we go, an' then they 'member t'ings they hear
'bout Devil Mountain."
"Exactly. That shows he spied on us and
overheard. You think none of them can be
persuaded to go any further ?"
Sarak shook his head decidedly. "Not
now," he answered positively.
"How far are we from — this place?" asked
Sherwood after a momentary paused.
" 'Bout one day walk — ^mebbe little more."
"What's to prevent our going on alone and
leaving Garcia here with the men? They
wouldn't run away with our stuff, would they ?"
Sarak spoke slowly. "No steal goods.
Mebbe run away — if he tell 'em more about —
2S8 The Emerald Buddha
"We'd have to take that chance. You'd be
willing to guide us there, wouldn't you — ^Dick
and me, I mean."
For a brief moment Sarak hesitated.
Watching him closely, Dick saw the muscles of
the man's face quiver and glimpsed for an in-
stant in the dark eyes a look which had not been
there even when he faced the charging bull
elephant and almost certain death. It was fear
— elemental, consuming fear. He, too, was
afraid of something which lay hidden in the
depths of this unknown, mysterious jungle.
The realization startled Dick and set his heart
to thumping suddenly. Then the look passed
like a ripple on a pond and the Malay spoke.
"Yes," he said quietly. "I take you."
"Fine," said Sherwood, who had been busy
with his pipe. "I'll arrange things with Garcia
and we'll start early in the morning. I still
can't see what his game is," he went on thought-
fully. "He must know that he would be left
The night was a restless one for Dick. He
had the last watch, and though he tried to com-
pose himself to slumber fairly early in the even-
ing, every now and then that awed, frightened
look on Sarak's face came back to trouble him.
It was so much more poignant and definite than
anything he had noticed in the man before that
it seemed to strike a jangling note of apprehen-
sion in the boy's own mind. Time and again
he told himself that the Malay simply shared
the ignorant superstitions of his race — ^that,
like the others, he merely believed in the ghosts
of the mountain and the evil spirits which "ate
up brown men." What else could there be to
worry him or any of them ? Garcia, on being
told that they meant to take a day or two to ex-
plore the neighborhood, had neither showed
surprise nor made objection. He was to stay
behind and keep the camp in order until their
return, and with the plotting half-breed out of
the running, Dick felt that their way ought to
be clear and easy. Nevertheless, he tossed
wakefuUy, oppressed by he knew not what,
finally snatching a few hours of fitful, troubled
26o The Emerald Buddha
slumber. During his watch, which ended with
the dawn, the shrill cries and weird night noises
of the jungle folk, to which he thought he had
long since grown accustomed, annoyed him des-
perately, and he was disgusted at the state of
nerves he had allowed himself to work up.
Daylight, however, brought courage and
comfort as it so often does. They left camp di-
rectly after breakfast, carrying rifles and am-
munition, a single blanket each and two days'
supply of food. Garcia waved them adieu with
many promises that things should be well looked
after during their absence, and as Dick glanced
back at the half-breed's smiling, treacherous
face he was conscious of a feeling of relief and
"At least we're rid of you and your plot-
ting," he muttered under his breath.
THE FLYING TERROR
Somehow or other, though, the day did not
prove as cheerful and pleasant as he had ex-
Dected. There was little conversation. Sarak,
never very talkative, seemed more than usually
silent, and even Sherwood had not much to say.
Their course did not lead directly up the
mountain, but carried them diagonally along its
slope, and something in the character of the
surroundings accounted, perhaps, for the men-
tal oppression which, before noon, seemed to
have fallen upon all three.
They had long since become used to jungle
travelling, to hacking their way through masses
of undergrowth and great trees bound together
by the ever present vines and creepers into an
almost impenetrable tangle. But back there in
the flat country there had been occasional
262 The Emerald Buddha
streams or rivers to cross, where they got at
least a glimpse now and then of patches of blue
sky overhead and a blaze of tropic sunshine.
There was nothing of this sort now to cheer
them. As they advanced the trees increased in
size and the undergrowth thinned and died out.
At length they were walking between vast pil-
lars that rose up to a matted canopy of green
through which not a single flicker of sunlight
penetrated. Ropy creepers swung from tree to
tree ; here and there gorgeous crijnson orchids
gleamed through the shadows in patches of sin-
ister blood-red color. Finally even the spindly
undergrowth vanished and the ground was cov-
ered with blotched, poisonous-looking fungi and
a stiff, pale green moss which crunched under
their feet. The air in this still, shadowy place
became damp and almost cold.
All day long, save for a brief halt at noon,
they pushed on through this silent, oppressive
forest. Sarak led the way and Dick brought
up in the rear. Now and again at long inter-
vals Kent would ask a question to which the
The Flying Terror 263
Malay replied in jerky monosyllables. Dick
rarely saw his face, but somehow he had a feel-
ing that the man's fear and nervousness were
increasing as they advanced. Toward the end
of the afternoon he took to darting swift
glances from side to side ; once or twice he even
stopped short and stared into the tree-tops as if
he had seen or heard something that troubled
him. The result was that when they finally
halted about six o'clock the boy was ready to
yell from sheir nervous tension.
"Are we going to camp here?" he asked,
anything to keep his voice steady.
Sherwood turned from Sarak, who had been
speaking in a low, hurried undertone.
"Yes. The place is five or six miles away.
Sarak doesn't want to be caught there by — ^by
darkness. We'll sleep here and go on at
Warrender made no comment. Into his
mind — ^just how he did not know, except that
he had probably been unconsciously absorbing
something of the Malay superstition — ^there
264 The Emerald Buddha
had been slowly forming all day a fantastic no-
tion that the ancient Buddha sitting in its ruined
shrine was the very fountain head of all the
weird and ghostly terrors of this unspeakable
forest. There were moments when his
wrought-up imagination even pictured the idol
as something definitely and concretely evil, a
sort of arch-fiend or power of darkness. He
told himself that it was all the most utter non-
sense, yet he could not help a feeling of sym-
pathy with the Malay ; certainly he found him-
self distinctly thankful that they were to pass
the night where they were.
The mere occupation of gathering materials
for a fire and of cooking the supper was a re-
lief, but one which was soon over. Scarcely
had they finished eating when the swift, tropic
darkness turned the shadows about them into
the blackest night — s, blackness more oppressive
than any the boy had ever known.
The glow of their little fire was like the
merest pin prick of light in an infinity of dark-
ness. It flickered on the massive roots of per-
The Flying Terror 265
haps a dozen giant trees, touched vaguely a cur-
tain of tangled vines behind them, brought into
sharp relief a single grotesque clump of orange
colored fungus, but that was all. The rest of
the world was blotted out as if it had never
been, and as Dick lay on his blanket, chin
cupped in his hands, it was not difficult to people
that smothering blackness with almost any hor-
For a time he and Kent talked spasmodically
in tones unconsciously lowered. Sarak took no
part in the conversation. He sat motionless,
the blanket draped about his shoulders. His
eyes were fixed and staring, and once, as Dick
brushed his hand in moving, he found it cold as
It was Sherwood who presently suggested
that they turn in, and who arranged the
watches. He himself took the second one
allotting the first to Sarak, and giving Dick that
period between midnight and early dawn.
The latter had never felt more wide awake.
In spite of his loss of sleep the night before, he
266 ' The Emerald Buddha
found it impossible to close his eyes. Lying in
the most comfortable position he could assume,
his gaze wandered restlessly from Sarak's mo-
tionless figure sitting close to Sherwood's prone
one, thence to the black arch above and back
again, a wearisome, eternal round. The
slightest sound — ^and there were many queer
cries and calls and rustlings both far and near
— smote on his ears with curious distinctness.
One in particular, a strange whistling shriek
that rang through the jungle like an echo,
growing fainter and fainter imtil it died away,
he found especially trying. Once or twice as
he stared upward he seemed actually to sense a
moving blackness darker than the night itself,
hovering above their little fire. But at that
point he dug his teeth into his under lip and a
swift rush of shame came over him that he
could allow nerves and fancies to bring him to
such a pass.
He got some sleep at last, but it was not tmtil
Kent's watch began, and it seemed as though
he had scarcely closed his eyes before he was
The Flying Terror 267
shaken into partial wakefulness by his cousin.
'Time, old man," whispered Sherwood-
*'You certainly were tearing it off, all right."
Dick blinked, rubbed his eyes and sat up.
Ten minutes later he was still sitting there,
hunched up a bit, his hands dangling limply
from his knees. On either side of him lay the
sleeping figures of Sarak and Sherwood; in
front the fire, recently replenished, burned
brightly. He stared at it dully with sleep-
filmed eyes. Presently his head drooped, lifted
slowly, drooped again until bis forehead rested
upon his upraised knees. . . .
He seemed to be alone in the forest walking
endlessly. It was night, yet there was a curi-
ously luminous quality to the atmosphere
which came, apparently, from little dancing
globes of clear white fire. He looked closer
and saw that the globes were held by shadowy
figures like mis^apen men floating through the
darkness. One of them swept close to him and
by the light of the glowing sphere he recognized
the face of Garcia set in a leering, sinister grin.
268 The Emerald Buddha
The face passed on, drifting into the night ; the
other shadows vanished, the globes were blotted
out. Somewhere in the infinite blackness of
space another light sprang up. Tiny at first,
it brightened swiftly as it came toward him un-
til at length the serried ranks of giant trees
were lit up brilliantly as with the passing of a
flame. And then he distinguished, floating to-
ward him through the forest, the seated figure
of a man. The face was calm, almost expres-
sionless, yet in the eyes and the evil half smile
there seemed to lurk the piled up wickedness of
untold centuries. One hand lay upturned in its
lap, the other, outstretched, held a great crystal
which blazed fiercely with a strange green fire.
The boy tried to cry out, but could not. He
strove to fly from that placid, smiling horror,
but seemed powerless to stir. On it came,
floating as on a river, closer and closer still.
The hot breath of its passing swept the boy's
face, and then and only then, with a frantic
struggle and a smothered cry, he burst the hid-
eous nightmare thralls and woke.
The Flying Terror 269
The fire had died to a red glow. About him
pressed the jungle, black and silent. And yet
he could have sworn that an instant before
something had brushed across his face; some-
thing real, concrete and not the figments of a
dream — something whose very presence damp-
ened his forehead with cold sweat and brought
fear to his heart.
With shaking fingers he felt for the revolver
strapped to his hip. There was reassurance in
the touch of the cold steel. The pounding of
his heart lessened a little, and reaching out to
the wood pile, he threw a couple of sticks on the
embers. A brief pause followed, before the
tiny flames licked up the sides of the dry wood.
An instant later there was a beat of wings and
something vague, black, monstrous, swept out
of the darkness straight at him.
In that flashing second Dick was conscious
only of vast wings covered with glistening skin
like oiled leather. There was a gleam of gray-
brown fur, the vague glimpse of a vicious look-
ing head with sharply pointed ears that seemed
270 The Emerald Buddha
as large as a small leopard's. He had just time
to fling one arm across his eyes when the things
struck him, flinging him backward to the
ground, and a daw tore sidewise along one
cheek. At the same instant the embers of the
fire were scattered far and wide and he was
plunged into suffocating darkness.
THE VANISHING OF SARAK
For a moment Dick lay there partly stunned,
the warm blood trickling down his face. Then
he heard Kent's voice.
"What in thunder was that? What's up?"
"I — I don't know," stammered the boy.
"It's something horribly big that flies. Look
out. Here it comes again."
Above their heads there came a swift beat of
wings. Instinctively Dick rolled over on his
face, and he was only just in time. He heard
Kent cry out in mingled pain and anger. Then
something heavy struck against his legs and an
instant later he felt one ankle gripped by sharp
teeth. He yelled and kicked out fiercely, but
the creature kept its hold. His right arm was
doubled under him and he could not reach his
revolver with the other.
2/2 The Emerald Buddha
"It's got me by the leg !" he cried "Shoot it,
can't you ?"
"I'm afraid of hitting you," panted Sher-
wood. "Wait a second."
A moment later Warrender felt his hand
fumbling in the darkness. It touched the boy's
head and went swiftly on along his back. Sud-
denly Dick felt it recoil. Then he heard Kent
gasp: "Steady, now. I'm going to crack it."
Warrender lay still with gritted teeth.
Kent's leg was pressed against his body, and all
at once he felt the muscles harden. In another
moment there wfis a dull thud followed by a
weird whistling shriek that turned his blood
At once the teeth relaxed their hold. There
came a dragging sound accompanied by an odd
rustling like vellum or oiled paper. The thing
was moving away. Panting with excitement,
Dick ventured to lift himself from the ground
and began to feel for his weapon. His fingers
closed about the butt and he was drawing it
The Vanishing of Sarak 273
from the holster when a little tongue of flame
burst up from the wood pile.
A live coal must have rolled over there when
the fire was scattered, and for a moment or two
the boy watched dully as the flames licked up
over the dry branches, growing ever brighter.
Then his gaze shifted and he caught his breath
in startled wonder.
A score of feet or more away a shapeless
black mass was moving slowly over the fungus-
covered ground. In that first instant Dick
could only liken it to a collapsed umbrella of
enormous size. Then the brightening fire or
some shift in position of the creature brought it
for a moment into full view, and a cry of min-
gled astonishment and horror burst simultane-
ously from the cousins.
The thing was a gigantic hat! The pointed
nozzle was there, the soft brown fur, the sharp
ears, the close-set vicious eyes and the leathery
wings. But the wings had a spread of at least
a dozen feet, while the head, with its narrow.
274 The Emerald Buddha
pointed jaw and sharp, bared teeth, was quite
as large as the head of a full grown setter.
"Shoot it, quick !" cried Warrender.
Sherwood, who till then had stood spell-
bound, drew his rifle swiftly to his shoulder and
tried to pull the trigger. But this was jammed,
and with a muttered exclamation of disgust, he
dropped the weapon and reached for Dick's.
As he did so there came a sudden rustle and the
creature rose slowly into the air. It flew heav-
ily, with a labored beating of its wings, but be-
fore Kent could take aim with the revolver it
had disappeared amongst the thick trees. He
fired twice at random, but with no apparent ef-
fect. Then he lowered the weapon and stared
"Of all the — ^nightmares !" he gasped.
Warrender smiled faintly; he was feeling a
little sick. "One of the — ^ghosts," he mur-
mured. "Did you ever see — "
"Never !" cut in the older chap emphatically.
"It's a new one on me. There are fl3dng foxes,
here, of course, but they're nothing like as big.
The Vanishing of Sarak 275
I did have a Dyak tell me once some years ago
about a beast which might fit this creature, but
they're such thundering liars sometimes — '^
Suddenly he broke off and stared about with
a bewildered expression. *' Where's Sarak?"
Dick's jaw sagged and his gaze travelled
mechanically around the circle of firelight.
Events had been moving so swiftly that until
this moment there had been scarcely time to
think. But now, looking back, he realized that
from the moment of his awakening to the
burned-out fire and that hovering black terror,
there had been neither sight nor sound of the
Malay. His blanket lay upon the ground close
to where Dick had been sitting; beside it was his
precious rifle. But of Sarak himself there was
no sign. He might have vanished into thin air.
"You — ^you don't think he ran away, do
you ?" the boy asked slowly.
"When that thing dropped on us, you
"Yes. He's been pretty much worked up
276 The Emerald Buddha
over something ever since we left camp. This
might have been the finishing touch."
Kent nodded "I know. I don't believe he
was afraid of anything material, though. It
was those darned superstitious notions about
the spirits that got his goat. He*s chock full
of it like all these natives. Of course he might
have thought it something uncanny, but surely
by this time — ''
He paused, hesitated a moment and then sent
Sarak's name ringing through the silent woods.
Again and again he called, but there was no
answer, and finally, with a puzzled shrug, he
turned to Dick.
'It's got me," he confessed. 'What on earth
could have happened to him? He'd have
heard that if he was within half a mile of here."
"Easily," agreed Warrender. He was busy
unlacing the high, heavy leather boot which was
torn and haggled about the ankle, but now he
stopped and looked up. "There's another
thing, Kent," he said seriously. "What's go-
ing to happen if he shouldn't come back?
The Vanishing of Sarak 277
Have you any idea how to get to this —
Not much," admitted Sherwood frowning.
Let's see that foot of yours. Did the brute's
teeth get through?"
"A little, I think. It aches, but not very
Kent knelt down and removing the lace,
gently drew off the heavy boot. When the
boy's foot was bared, they saw across the in-
step a small puncture from which the blood
oozed slowly. Sherwood cleaned it thoroughly
with water from a canteen and then produced
a bottle of iodine from his pack.
"It's jaw couldn't have been very strong," he
conmiented, as he applied this freely, "or he'd
have bitten clean through the ankle."
"Believe me, it had a grip all right," said
Dick, his forehead crinkling with the sharp
pain of the antiseptic. "I thought it would
never let go. If we hadn't had these boots
made especially heavy on account of snakes,
I'd have been pretty well chewed up."
278 The Emerald Buddha
The wound was carefully bound up -with
clean gauze, and by the time Dick had loosely
laced his boot again they realized that dawn
was upon them. The dense blackness about
them had changed to a cold, ghostly gray which,
in turn, swiftly lightened to that shadowy half
twilight that was bright as it would ever be in
this weird, depressing forest.
At once they began a thorough search of the
camp and its neighborhood for traces of the
missing guide. Dick carried his cousin's use-
less rifle while Kent appropriated the Malay's.
Reason told them that there was small chance
of a return of that horrible nocturnal creature,
yet the thought of it rarely left their minds and
they moved cautiously with many a searching
glance about and overhead.
It was Dick who first noticed the crushed
fungus, its fleshy spores already darkening with
exposure to the air. Something or someone had
passed that way, and not so very long ago either.
"That toadstool stuff turns black in an hour's
time," said Kent, an eager sparkle in his eyes.
The Vanishing of Sarak 279
Circling about, they presently found another
broken bit a dozen yards or so away. A b'ttle
further on they came unexpectedly upon a tiny
spring bubbling out of the foul looking earth,
and made a significant discovery.
In the soft ooze of its margin fresh foot-
prints were outlined clearly. There were two
distinct sets of them, placed close together as if
from men walking side by side. One of these
were imprints of naked feet — ^the broad, flat,
calloused foot of Dyak or Malay. The other —
"Boots !" cried Sherwood, pointing in amaze-
And then they both remembered that Garcia
wore boots, taking great pride in the fact that
he always went shod like a white man. To
their almost certain knowledge there was no
other such within a htmdred miles of where
Dick caught his breath with an odd, whistling
intake, and for a long moment the two stood
motionless, staring at one another, a startled,
uneasy questioning in their gaze.
THE Buddha's vengeance
It was Dick who first found his voice.
"How on earth — " he stammered. "What — ''
Kent seemed to sense his unspoken question.
"I don't know/' he answered harshly. "It's
Garcia, of course. He's followed us."
"But Sarak ! How did he get hold of him ?"
Sherwood's face hardened and his grip tight-
ened on the rifle. "I don't know," he repeated.
"He's after the emerald, of course. He must
have left camp almost as soon as we did and
trailed us. As for Sarak — " He hesitated
and his eyes grew puzzled. "I don't under-
stand that part. I'd have sworn that Sarak
was loyal to the core."
"Perhaps he was forced to go along," sug-
"But how? He was there beside us. You
were on watch. No one — "
The Buddha's Vengeance 281
''But I wasn't," confessed Dick, his face
flushing. *1 ought to be kicked, old man, but
I— fell asleep."
"Oh!" murmured Kent. ''Still, even that
doesn't explain it. Sarak was no coward. Be-
sides, a single cry or the noise of a struggle
would have wakened both of us. Unless he
went willingly, I don't see — " He broke off,
jaw squaring and eyes narrowed. "No matter
how it happened, he's gone," he went on curtly.
"It's up to us to catch them. I certainly don't
mean to let that greasy half-breed do us out of
the emerald without a fight for it."
There was a few minutes' delay while he took
out his pocket compass and set a course. Then
they moved swiftly forward and were presently
rewarded by signs which showed that Kent's
supposition was right. The two men were evi-
dently proceeding more or less directly toward
a definite goal.
"I wonder how much start they have ?" pon-
dered Dick presently.
"Not a great deal, I fancy. They couldn't
282 The Emerald Buddha
get far in the dark. As a matter of fact, I Ve
an idea they only went as far as the spring and
waited there till daylight. You noticed that
jumble of footprints on the further side? In
a way this makes things easier for us. WeVe
only to follow their trail to come straight to the
"But suppose they get there first, as they're
almost sure to do, and take the emerald?
WeVe really no more right to it than anyone
else, have we? It's a sort of case of 'finders
Kent nodded slowly. "In a way, yes. If
Sarak choses to lead anyone else to the place —
But I still can't believe he's taking that beast
there of his own free will. He's not that sort
at all. There's something queer about the
whole business, and it's up to us to find out what
He plunged ahead and for a time they pushed
through the jungle in silence. Sherwood con-
sulted his compass frequently, and presently no-
ticed that the trail they were following began
The Buddha's Vengeance 283
to verge slowly toward the east. The curve
was very gradual, but it was steady, and at the
end of another hour they were many points off
the original course.
Kent made no comment, but his face was puz-
zled Half a mile further on he stopped
and examined the ground closely. For many
feet around it was trampled as if there had
been a struggle. Several of the yellow fungi
had been crushed to fragments; the torn re-
mains of a great crimson orchid lay wilting on
The man's heart leaped and his eyes sparkled.
Was Sarak rebelling against whatever force or
influence had brought him here? Eagerly his
gaze swept the jungle and for a moment he al-
most expected to see the body of the traitor
Garcia lying in the shadows. But, though they
both searched carefully, they discovered noth-
ing save that the trail, which was picked jip
just beyond the scene of the struggle^ turned
abruptly to the south. A little further on a
swampy hollow recorded more footprints, but
284 The Emerald Buddha
in this case instead of lying side by side, the
marks of the bare feet -were ahnost obliterated
by the imprints of the boots which came behind.
Sherwood's eyes took on a sudden, hard
lustre. Swiftly he set an experimental course
with the compass, and as before the marks of
the trail presently bore him out. He was con-
vinced that either with kris or levelled rifle
Garcia was forcing the Malay to lead him to the
treasure. Sarak, as he read the signs, had
tried at first to take the half-breed astray.
Then came suspicion and discovery, followed
by a struggle in which the Malay had suc-
cumbed. He was slight and small boned, and
though Garcia was not tall, he had muscles of
steel. There was still a good deal Kent failed
to understand, but one thing seemed certain
now. If they wished to save the emerald, and
perhaps even Sarak's life, there was the great-
est need for speed. Once he had secured the
sure there was scarcely a chance that Gar-
would spare the Malay.
I a few words he explained his suspicions to
The Buddha's Vengeance 285
Dick, and then began a chase which neither of
them would soon forget. For nearly an hour
they sped through the jungle almost at a run,
thankful for the lack of undergrowth which
made this possible. Most of the way led up
hill. The hot, humid atmosphere was heavy
and oppressive, and they were quickly drenched
with perspiration. Now and again they had
to pause from sheer exhaustion or to set the
compass. Sometimes one or the other slipped
on a mass of fungus or tripped ovgr a trailing
root, but they were swiftly up and on again,
panting, stumbling, speechless from fatigue
and failing breath, but dominated by the feel-
ing that they must not stop as long as they could
put one foot before the other. At times the
pain in Dick's ankle was almost unsupportable,
but he was determined not to let it delay the
So passed an hour. Then slowly the char-
acter of the jungle began to change. The trees
lessened in girth ; undergrowth began to spring
up here and there, growing ever thicker. Im-
286 The Emerald Buddha
perceptibly the gloom lightened, until at last
they could even see flashes of warm color in the
distance and felt once more that somewhere the
sun was shining.
"WeVe coming out," panted Dick, dashing
one hand across his streaming forehead.
*Trovided we can get through this beastly
tangle," agreed Sherwood, tearing viciously at
a mass of vines. "What fools we were not to
bring our knives."
Then for the first time Fortune seemed to
smile. A few yards to the left loomed the op-
ening of a dusky tunnel freshly hacked through
the dense tropic growth. Garcia and the Ma-
lay had evidently gone this way, and as they
plunged into it there was an added comfort in
the feeling that the cutting of it must have very
much delayed their enemy.
Save for occasional hidden pitfalls, the way
was fairly clear. Around them the shadowy
half darkness had given place to a translucent
golden-green. There were still trees, and large
ones, but these were further apart and not so
The Buddha's Vengeance 287
towering. Some time in ages past the pri-
meval forest had been completely cleared away
and this was second growth.
For half a mile or so they pushed forward in
silence. Then Sherwood stopped abruptly with
a smothered exclamation of surprise. Across
their path there lay a ruined wall of thick ma-
sonry. Great blocks of stone carved with in-
tricate designs of elephants, weird beasts and
men in curious postures had fallen from the
top, but the solid portion was still high enough
to block their way.
The trail turned sharply to the right, skirting
the wall a score of yards to a great square gate-
way, whose fallen top lay in a mass of stone
and rubbish, filling the opening for several feet.
Dick's heart was thumping with excitement
as he followed Kent over the rough heap and
gained the inner side of the wall. Before them
lay a flat, square courtyard, paved with im-
mense blocks of yellowish stone. On either
side rose up massive ruined buildings, roofless
and open to the sky, their walls covered with
288 The Emerald Buddha
carving. Here and there trees had sprung up,
their roots upheaving some of the great stones
that formed the courtyard floor, their branches
thrusting through gaunt open window-holes.
Vines twined about everywhere, but in spite of
the masses of vivid green, the sunlight lay
across the ancient pavement in streaks and
patches of glorious color.
Yet, welcome as it was, Dick scarcely noticed
it. His eyes were riveted on another gateway
in the opposite wall, though which his keyed-up
senses seemed to have caught the sound of
A streak of golden green gleaming with a
dull iridescence writhed across his path and
vanished in a hole. He recognized it as the
most venomous tropic reptile in his knowledge,
but even that failed to move him. His whole
being was centered on that gateway and on
what might lie Ixryond. A moment later he
caught up to Sherwood and together they crept
steathily to the opening and peered through.
A stretch of uneven stone pavement met their
The Buddha's Vengeance 289
gaze. Beyond, a flight of stone steps, rounded
and crumbling with age, led up to a narrow, •
flat platform. Facing them, on a level with the
platform, stood a ruined shrine, the delicate
laccry of its remaining shreds of carving shad-
owed by an immense zapote tree, whose spread-
ing branches swept low over the placid, im-
movable figure that sat therein.
But the branches were not too low, nor their
shadow too deep, to hide the face of the seated
Buddha. Calm, almost expressionless it was,
yet about the corners of the mouth there lurked
the beginnings of a smile — a smile so sinister,
so cruel, so full of the unutterable wickedness
of ages, that the boy, remembering the details
of that hateful nightmare, turned cold. As in
that dream, one hand lay upturned in its lap;
the other, outstretched, met with a ray of clear
sunshine streaming through the branches of the
tree. Something it held which gleamed and
glittered in the sunlight — something shining,
crystal, gorgeously green in hue.
A stifled sob of wonder and of dread burst
290 The Emerald Buddha
from the boy's lips. That sinister, smiling
thing seemed to hold him spellbound. He
scarcely heeded the man in tattered white who
stumbled up the steps, one hand reaching^ out
It was Garcia. With a strange feeling^ of
detachment, almost as if he were looking at a
play, Dick watched the man run up those few
remaining steps and gain the platform. There
came the briefest pause as if even this hard-
ened creature had been smitten at the last mo-
ment with something of that superstitious ter-
ror which had kept the treasure so long invio-
late. In that pause the boy*s eyes shifted to
the bottom of the steps, where Sarak crouched,
his tense, upturned face stamped with a look of
such horrified suspense that Dick's gaze veered
swiftly back toward the unknown catastrophe.
He was just in time to see Garcia step for-
ward suddenly, his greedy fingers closing about
the emerald. Apparently this did not come
away easily from its age-old resting place in
The Buddha^ s Vengeance 291
the hollow of the Buddha's hand, and Garcia
jerked at it impatiently.
Like a flash the Buddha's outstretched arm
swept upward and then back again, the emerald
gleaming in that rapid movement a brilliant
arc of greenish fire. Garcia flung up both
arms and spun around, a scream of fear burst-
ing from his lips. A second later he had van-
Sherwood gave a sharp cry and bent for-
ward ; from the crouching Malay there came a
long, sobbing groan. Warrender's face was
white and sweat-dabbled, and in his wide, be-
wildered stare there was a touch of fear. It
seemed incredible that in that flashing ii\stant
the man could possibly have disappeared, and
BY A HAIRBREADTH
There in its ruined shrine the placid Buddha
sat as it had sat for untold ages. Its out-
stretched hand still held the glowing emerald;
its lips still curved in that sinister, cruel smile.
But to Dick's overwrought nerves the eyes,
bent upon the empty platform at its feet,
seemed to hold in them a horrid gleam of evil
"He's — ^he's gone !" gasped Sherwood.
Dick nodded. A moment later, moved ap-
parently by the same impulse, the two straight-
ened and moved slowly across the ancient pave-
Sarak, still huddled at the foot of the steps,
turned on them a face which seemed almost
gray in hue. His eyes were terrified and his
whole body trembled.
By a Hairbreadth 293
"You — ^you saw?" he whispered, moistening
his dry lips.
"Yes. What— what happened?"
The Malay shuddered and made a strange
sign with one hand. "The god has claimed
him/' he muttered in his own tongue. "He
takes swift vengeance on the despoiler."
Sherwood pursed up his lips ; he was rapidly
recovering his poise and self-control.
"I think not," he said decidedly. "It takes
something besides vengeance to wipe a man
off the map like that. I wish I knew just
He paused, glancing thoughtfully up at the
seated idol. Sarak stared at him with horrified
"You must not think to try ! " he protested
rapidly. "It is death ! We must go from this
evil place while we may. Even to stay here
may be a danger."
Kent looked at him curiously. "Why did
you bring Garcia here ? " he asked abruptly.
Sarak's face clouded. For a moment anger
296 The Emerald Buddha
sparkling. "rU bet anything the platform
swung down and dropped him in. See how the
moss is torn around the edges ? There must be
a pit or some sort of a hollow tmderneath."
"But what on earth made it drop ?"
"The arm, I think. There's probably some
arrangement of spring or levers between that
and what supports the platform. You noticed
how he tugged at the emerald and the way the
arm shot up? The stone must be fastened to
the hand. I've heard of those contrivances
before. They found one in a ruined temple in
Sumatra, but that let down a big rock from
above that smashed the fellow who discovered
Dick's face brightened with comprehension
and interest. He realized at once the simple
cleverness of the device. To reach the emer-
ald from the front one had to step directly on
the metal platform. Probably the balance was
so delicate that the slightest tug on the* out-
stretched hand sufficed to destroy it.
"But what — what's down there?" he asked
By a Hairbreadth 297
suddenly. "Do you suppose Garcia can be still
alive and — and suflfocating, or something?"
"I don't know, but I should say not. Those
old priests were usually pretty thorough.
There might be a pool down there fed by
springs, or some arrangement of sharp blades
to pierce him. Ugh ! What a beastly looking
brute he is ! Do you notice that sort of leering
grin ? It's just as if he were waiting like some
old spider in a web."
"Don't!" protested Dick hastily. "I hate
the sight of it. If you've got any plan for get-
ting the emerald, let's go to it."
"There's nothing hard about that if you're
warned beforehand," smiled Sherwood, slip-
ing off his coat. "We'll attack the old beggar
from behind. You see, we know that he
doesn't move. I believe by holding onto his
head I can just reach the emerald, but to make
things sure we'll both go over and one hang on
to the other's belt."
It sounded simple enough but Dick did not
altogether fancy the undertaking. He was
298 The Emerald Buddha
game^ of course, but down in his heart there
still lurked a little canker of uneasiness.
Kent leaped across the platform first and
Dick followed him. Behind the seated Buddha
was a narrow space, cluttered a little by fallen
stones, but still quite passable. Reaching the
right shoulder of the image they paused a mo-
ment to make arrangements. At the last mo-
ment it was decided that Dick, being consider-
ably lighter than his cousin, should be the one
to secure the treasure, while Sherwood held him
firmly from behind.
It all seemed ridiculously easy, and yet, as the
boy climbed up and paused, one arm around the
solid bronze neck of the idol, he felt an uncom-
fortable shiver go over him. Then his eyes
fell on the wonderful emerald and his spirits
began to rise.
"I'll need a knife,'' he said, after a moment's
scrutiny. "It's fastened to the hand with little
Kent passed up his pocket knife and, leaning
By a Hairbreadth 2gg
far forward, the boy began to saw gingerly at
the delicate wires. One was cut through;
then two more. Beneath him he could feel the
bronze arm yield and quiver a little, bift nothing
more happened, and at last the final wire was
severed. Dick handed back the knife and then,
with a quick-drawn breath, bent forward to
grasp the stone. As he did so one foot slipped
slightly, throwing his weight for an instant on
the arm against which he leaned.
With a sudden click the bronze arm shot up
past his face, striking him on one shoulder.
He gave a cry of horror and dismay and
clutched frantically at the glittering, flying
jewel. There was a dull rumbling; a strange,
foetid odor assailed him, and an instant later
he found himself supported only by Sher-
wood's strong arm, hanging over a shadowy
pit which had opened at the Buddha's very
It was the most fleeting glimpse, for the
bronze slab swung quickly into place again, but
300 The Emerald Buddha
it was enough to turn the boy faint and sick.
The shallow pit was alive with snakes — writh-
ing, rustling, golden-green creatures, whose bite
he knew meant almost instant death. And
there, amidst that multitude of crawling hor-
rors, the still figure of a man lay face down,
A moment later Kent hauled him back and
supported him with one arm about his shoul-
ders, while Dick gasped out a few shaking
words of explanation.
"Do you think they were put there — on pur-
pose ? " he finished unevenly.
Sherwood's face crinkled with disgust.
"Quite likely. Those old heathens were more
than equal to it. The creatures live for ages^
and of course that hole makes a wonderful
breeding place for them. But old man — "
His face grew strained and anxious. "The —
the emerald ? ''
Dick smiled faintly and opened one tight-
clenched fist. There in his brown palm lay the
great jewel, gleaming, glittering even in the
By a Hairbreadth 301
shadows as if it held within itself a spark of
*'It's lucky Tve played short on the team so
long," murmured the boy. "I almost missed
304 The Emerald Buddha
"Sarak can be trusted, of course ? "
"Absolutely. The only trouble is he's sure
to be scared to death of the stone and feel that
our keeping it will cause all kinds of evil for-
tune to everyone concerned. Til do my best
to persuade him that we are willing to take all
the responsibility, and perhaps that'll make him
easier in his mind."
It was, of course, quite impossible to conceal
the fact that the emerald was in their posses-
sion. From his place at the foot of the steps
the Malay had been a terrified witness of every-
thing that took place on the platform, and
when they joined him he was full of horror at
But Sherwood's soothing explanation quieted
him a little, and as a further concession to his
superstitious fears, they left the place at once,
though they would have much preferred re-
maining for at least a day to explore the ancient,
ruined city. Shortly before noon they passed
their last night's camping place and by hard
At Last 305
going managed to reach the confines of the
dreary forest by nightfall
Even then they did not feel entirely at
ease regarding a possible visit from one of the
hideous batlike monsters, and kept a strict
watch and a brightly burning fire all night long.
But nothing happened to disturb them, and
starting again at dawn they made their old en-
campment a little after ten o'clock.
They were only just in time. Alarmed by
the prolonged absence of all their leaders, whom
by this time they felt sure must have fallen
victims to the horrors of the haunted forest,
the natives had packed up everything and were
on the point of departure when the three men
suddenly appeared amongst them.
These were greeted with shouts of surprised
delight, and after a few words of explanation
in which Sherwood, with perfect truth, told
them that Garcia had perished of snake bite,
the command to march was given.
Though not without adventure, the return
3o6 The Emerald Buddha
trip was aca^nplifthcd much more quickly and
easily than the other had heen. Keeping cloM
(m the hack trail much toilsome cutting of un-
dcrjjrowfh was avoided, and they came out on
the hank r>f the f Jmhanjf River a little over
three weeks later.
The launch, /;f course, had returned to J-A-
htian, hut after considerahle delay they secured
two native's proas in which the entire party em-
harked for the f British settlement. Here the
mvx} were paid off and dismissed, and Sherw^xxl
and Warrender \f9<}V p/iss;ij/e on the first
steamer to sail for Sinj;?i|>/;re. Sarak saw
them off, his manm-r an ofjd minj/lin;; of regret
and furtiv/-, yf'\ nnmist;ik;ihlr relief.
"Kr still thinks weVr hoodoofd and \ guesft
he's glad to see the vui\ of fis,** smiled Sher-
w^/;d, as t}iey lK>th wav^-d vigorously at the
f*Tf'C.\^ motionl^'i;s figure '-.t/'inding on the d/K:k.
"He's ahout tlje w})itf'st n;»tive FVe ever run
across, and f liopr hf'*ll m;ikf tli^* most of that
wad of mon^'y wf g;iv^' him ;ind settle down
r/;mfort;jhly for tlif rf';f of his life. There'*
At Last 307
one thing certain, though ; nothing on earth will
ever induce him to go within a hundred miles of
that old Buddha again as long as he lives/'
'^ YouVe said it ! " chuckled Dick. '^Though
for that matter I don't believe I would either/'
Two months later they stood again together
on a steamer's deck. This time it was the deck
of the big liner they had boarded at Liverpool,
for the return trip had been made through the
Suez Canal and the Mediterranean. It was
dusk and with Hellgate and the Narrows be-
hind them, their gaze was set ahead to where
the towering skyscrapers of the city were out-
lined like jagged mountain tops against the
As the twilight deepened and lights began to
twinkle in myriads of windows, Dick Warren-
der gave a deep, contented sigh. It had been
a wonderful trip, but somehow he was glad to
be at home once more. The shrieking of a
passing tug was music in his ears. Even the
homely, familiar sight of a crowded ferry boat
halted in midstream by their passing, made him
3o8 The Emerald Buddha
smile at the thought of the times when he had
stood on the deck of perhaps that very boat
chafing impatiently at just such a delay as this.
And then the realization of how much had
happened since he had last set foot upon a
North River ferry boat, sent his thoughts sud-
denly back into the past, and through his mind
swept a succession of brilliant fleeting pictures
— ^vivid, colorful, full of life and movement,
and permeated by the hot, languorous, fasci-
nating atmosphere of the East
He saw Cairo and the pyramids of Egypt,
blazing in the noonday glare. The flat, dun
coast of Arabia swept in review before him,
and Ceylon, embowered in green, with its an-
cient ruins and carven images of other days.
Again he passed through the ornate halls of
the Temple of Vishnu, gazed wondering at the
gorgeous golden dragons in the cave, shivered
in the forest glade of that unknown atoll with
its skeletons and poisoned pearls, or felt the
Ocean Queen tremble in her death throes be-
neath his feet.
At Last 309
But the vision which lingered longest was
of that silent, ruined courtyard ringed round
by jungle and dominated by the placid, seated
Buddha with the evil smiling face, one hand
eternally outstretched. The hand was empty
now and in that sinister bronze face the boy
seemed to sense a lurking look of baffled fury
that made him shiver. Then suddenly he
came back to earth and realized that Kent was
"I asked if you were glad to be home again,"
repeated the latter, smiling at Dick's abstrac-
"Why, yes — I think so. Of course it's been
a simply corking trip. I don't suppose the fel-
lows will believe more than a quarter of what
I've got to tell them. But of course home does
look pretty nice after being away so long. . . .
You're sure you've got it safe, Kent ? "
For more than the hundredth time, Sherwood
felt the soft, chamois money belt next to his
skin in which reposed the Buddha's emerald.
"Safe as a church, old top," he grinned. "I
310 The Emerald Buddha
don't know what my bank account will look like
after IVe paid the duty — ^but I don't much care,